The Employment Standards Act (ESA) is legislation that indicates the rights and responsibilities of most employees and employers in Ontario workplaces. Among other things, it includes laws on minimum wages, statutory leave, public holidays, and overtime. Student workers, including teaching assistants and students in work-study programs, are protected by the ESA. The ESA does not protect students completing internships or experience programs like the Professional Experience Year Internship Program.

1. You cannot be required to work more than 44 hours in one week. While you can agree to work more than this, in most cases the employer is required to pay you one-and-a-half times your regular wage.

2. Students aged 18 and older are entitled to a minimum wage of $11.40 per hour. If your employment requires you to serve liquor, this wage is $9.90 and excludes tips and gratuities.

3. Most employees are entitled to take Ontario’s nine public holidays off every year and earn public holiday pay. Public holiday pay is the sum of your previous four weeks of wages, divided by 20. In most cases, working on these holidays requires your employer to pay one-and-a-half times your regular wage.

4. If you have been working at the same establishment for more than three months, you are entitled to advanced written notice prior to your termination. Without this written notice, termination pay is required. Termination within the first three months does not require advanced notice.

5. If you work five consecutive hours, you are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute lunch break. If the employer and employee agree, this can be split into two 15-minute breaks.

Additionally, the ESA permits international students to seek employment while they study, providing they have a valid study permit and a social insurance number.

Cases that violate the Employment Standards Act can be reported by directly contacting  the Employment Standards Information Centre or by completing an Employment Standards Claim Form. Complaints will be investigated by an employment standards officer, who can make orders against an employer.