Canadian Labour Standards

Canadian Labour StandardsThe Canada Labour Code establishes federal labour standards that all federally regulated employers and employees must follow. For instance, if you work in mining, transportation, infrastructure, banking, and some other sectors, you are likely to be a federally regulated employee. These standards include rules regulating hours of work, paid vacations and holidays, leaves, dismissals, and other aspects.

Hours of work

The standard hours of work for an employee are 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week (32 for bus drivers). Employees have at least one full day of rest each week, which is usually Sunday. Overtime pay stands at a minimum of 1.5 times the regular hourly wage. Managers and professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, and engineers, are exempt from overtime. In most cases, the maximum number of hours worked in a week is 48.

Vacation and holidays

Employees have a minimum of 2 weeks of vacation annually after completing 1 year of employment with the same employer and 3 weeks after completing 6 consecutive years of employment. Also, employees have 9 paid general holidays every year (New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day).


Employees are entitled to:

  • Sick leave protection of up to 17 weeks if they have worked for the same employer for at least 3 consecutive months
  • Leaves for work-related illness and injury and leaves related to critical illness
  • Up to 17 weeks of maternity leave (for female workers) and up to 63 weeks of parental leave (for natural and adoptive parents) if they have completed 6 consecutive months of employment with the same employer
  • Up to 28 weeks of compassionate care leave to look after a family member who is gravely ill
  • Bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member, if the employee has worked for their employer for 3 consecutive months
  • Up to 52 weeks of leave in the case of a missing child under 18 years of age, and up to 104 weeks of leave if the child has died

Termination, layoff or dismissal

Employees do not have to give their employer notice if they choose to quit. However, if the employer chooses to terminate a position, he must provide the employee with at least 2 weeks’ written notice or pay the employee 2 weeks’ regular wages. If the employee has completed at least 12 consecutive months of continuous employment, he has the right to collect severance pay: 2 days’ regular wages for each full year that he worked for the employer (the minimum benefit is 5 days’ wages).

Specific labour standards

Canadian provinces and territories have specific labour standards. Here are a few examples:

  • Alberta. Employees may work a maximum of 12 hours a day. There is an additional paid public holiday (Alberta Family Day), and Boxing Day is listed as an optional holiday. Also, employees who wish to end their employment must give 1- or 2-week written notice to the employer.
  • British Columbia. In this province, employees must have at least 32 hours in a row free from work each week. There are two additional holidays: Family Day and B. C. Day, and Boxing Day is an optional holiday.
  • New Brunswick. There are two additional public paid holidays: Family Day and New Brunswick Day, and Victoria Day and Boxing Day are excluded.
  • Ontario. In this province, overtime begins after an employee has worked 44 hours in a work week. The rate is the same as the federal one (1.5 times the regular rate of pay).
  • Quebec. There is no Boxing Day among public paid holidays in Quebec, and Good Friday is at the employer’s choice. The length of the work week is normally 40 hours, but it can vary from 39 to 60 hours depending on the industry.