Know your rights: Advocating for yourself in the workplace
By Amanda Owusu
Posted on March 29, 2021
In Canada, there are many laws at the national and provincial level that protect people who are working in Canada. It’s important to know them so that when you face issues in the workplace, you can protect yourself.
In Canada, the Canadian government uses Canadian laws, such as the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the Canada Labour Code to protect every worker in Canada, including foreign workers.
The Canadian Human Rights Act does not allow discrimination in the workplace in Canada. The Act says that your employer is not allowed to treat you differently because of your citizenship, race, religion, culture, gender, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, color, disability, age, and sexual orientation. This Act says that employers and service providers must make sure that all employees are treated equally.
Under Canadian laws all workers have the right to be paid for their work, the right to have a safe workplace, and the right to keep their passport and work permit. These laws only cover some types of jobs such as working with the federal government or banks. You can find out more about what types of workplaces are covered by visiting the resources below. If you are not covered under the federal employment laws, then you are still protected by the employment laws of the province you live in. These laws offer the same basic protections in the workplace.
Provincial governments have created more laws to protect the rights of workers. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss Ontario’s Employment laws.
Ontario has laws like the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment for Foreign Nationals Act, the Pay Equity Act, the Labour Relations Act, and the Employment Standards Act to protect its workers.
Ontario’sEmployment Standards Act sets the minimum standards for work conditions, such as your pay, work hours, and the time you get off. Regardless of whether you work full-time, part-time, or work for an temporary help agency, your rights are the same. You have the right to be paid on a consistent schedule and to get a pay stub. A pay stub is a statement that you receive from your employer which breaks down how many hours you worked, how much you were paid, and how much money was taken from your income to pay for taxes, pension, and vacation pay. Most people working in Ontario have the right to be paid minimum wage. The law is different for people like students, liquor servers, and people who do paid work out of their homes for an employer. Check with your workplace for more information on what the minimum wage is for your job position. You also have the right to be paid overtime pay after 44 hours of work in a week. This pay has to be at least one-and-a-half times the regular rate of pay. Most people do not work on public holidays, though they are paid. There are nine public holidays every year.
These are just your basic rights under this Act, but you can learn your full rights by reading the Act. You also have the right to vacation pay. You can access tools offered by the government that can help you figure out how much vacation pay and overtime pay you’re entitled to. You can learn more about who to contact at the bottom of this article.
Foreign nationals also have worker’s rights here in Ontario, which are laid out in the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act. Under this law, you generally have all the same rights written in the Employment Standards Act. This Act protects the rights of people who are working or seeking work through an immigration placement program or temporary help agency. If you are a foreign national working in Ontario through a temporary help agency, you can find a fact sheet about specific work situations as well as your rights under this law at the end of the article.
The Pay Equity Act gives men and women the right to receive equal pay for work that may be different in nature but of equal value. This right helps to ensure men and women are paid equally. If you think your employer has not respected your right to equal pay for work of equal value, you can contact the Pay Equity Office at PECInfo@ontario.ca. Send them an email with your name, the name of your workplace, and information about your situation.
A union is a group of workers who have come together to have a say in the working conditions of their place of employment. The Labour Relations Act gives workers in Ontario the right to join a trade union and participate in union activities. It’s against the law for an employer to fire or treat you badly for joining a union or exercising any rights under this Act.
Ontario also has laws to ensure that employees receive health and safety protections in the workplace. The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives you the right to know about dangers in your workplace. Your employer must also train you on how to protect yourself from harm. You also have the right to refuse unsafe work or ask your employer to create safe work conditions, and you cannot get in trouble or be fired for it. If your employer can’t fix these issues right away, you can call the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety at 1-877-202-0008. You don’t have to give your name, and services are offered in more than just English. You can also help identify workplace health and safety concerns by asking questions, raising concerns, and providing positive feedback. If you would like to speak to someone, The Employment Standards Information Centre (1-800-531-5551) and the Health & Safety Contact Centre (1-877-202-0008) also provide services in many different languages.
What To Do If You’re Being Mistreated At Work?
If you feel that you’re being mistreated at work, there are many things you can do to help yourself. If you’re being paid unfairly, discriminated against, or feel that you have been dismissed for an unfair reason, it’s suggested that you first try to work these issues out with the company one-on-one. You can do this by contacting the Human Resources department or speaking to your manager or supervisor. They should be able to help you out with your issues. Make sure you keep notes on when these incidents happened, who was there, when you spoke to people, and the things that were said. If your employer is unable or unwilling to help you and you believe that your rights have been violated, you can file a claim with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
How to file a claim:
In Ontario, you can file a claim online or through mail.
- If you complete this process through mail, you will have to print and fill out a PDF claim form and mail it to the address listed.
- If you complete this process online, you will have to create an account on the provincial website and complete the claim form online.
The Ministry will ask you to answer a form about your issue to the best of your knowledge, which they will use to assess your claim. Before completing your claim, it’s best to gather documents or information that you may need to complete this process, such as pay stubs, proof of your employment, and the hours you worked.
After answering these questions and completing the claim form, an investigating officer will be assigned to your case and reach out to you with more information or instructions.
Don’t wait too long to file a claim, as you usually only have two years from the date of the incident. Your name, address, phone number, and email will not be shared with your employer but other details might.
If you need assistance with this process, you can call the Employment Standards Information Centre toll-free at 1-800-531-5551.
If you’re a member of a union, the process might look a bit different, as you can file a complaint with your union under their collective agreement. If this is the case, reach out to your union representative for more information.
Canadian Government’s guide to rights in the workplace:
Guide to the Employment Standards Act in Ontario:
Federal Government Vacation Pay Calculator:
Ontario Public Holiday Pay Calculator:
How to calculate vacation pay in Ontario:
Federal Government General Holiday Calculator:
Federal Government rights for Foreign Workers:
Employment Standards Act Claim Form:
Employment Standards Act Claim Instructional Video:
For more information about labor unions in Canada:
Employment Protections for Foreign Nationals in Ontario: