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HR Advice for Hours of Work and Break Time Guidelines in Ontario


Hours of work and break times are closely regulated in Ontario, and it’s up to employers to ensure they’re following all of the guidelines in the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This is what employers should know about employee work hours, the length of breaks and how overtime is involved.

Hours of Work Limits in Ontario

According to the Employment Standards Act, “work time” is the time when the employee is actually working or when the employee is not working but is required to stay at the workplace. In Ontario, the maximum number of hours an employee can be required to work in a day is eight hours or the hours of an established regular workday.  In a week, the maximum number of hours an employee can be required to work is 48 hours. However, daily and weekly limits to hours of work can be exceeded if an electronic or written agreement is made between the employer and employee.

Work Breaks and Eating Periods in Ontario

Employers in Ontario are required to provide rest periods from work. Employees cannot work for more than five hours in a row without being given a 30-minute eating period free from work. If agreed upon by both the employee and employer, eating periods can be split into two parts but they must total at least 30-minutes. Meal breaks, whether paid or unpaid, are not considered hours of work and cannot be counted towards overtime. Ontario employers are required to provide meal breaks under the ESA, but they do not have to give employees any additional breaks. Providing coffee breaks, smoking breaks, or any other work breaks is up to the employers’ discretion. If employees are given additional breaks and are required to remain at the workplace for them they must be paid minimum wage for that time.  

Hours Free From Work in Ontario

The Employment Standards Act states that Ontario employees are entitled to a certain number of hours off work. Employers must give employees:

  • 11 consecutive hours off work each day
  • 8 hours off work between shifts (if the total time for both shifts exceeds 13 hours)
  • 24 hours off work each work week (or 48 consecutive hours off work every two weeks)

While employers and employees can agree to exceed the hours of work, they generally cannot agree to fewer hours free from work.

Hours of Work and Overtime Pay

When discussing hours of work it is important to also understand overtime pay. For every hour an employee works over the 44 hours a week, employers are required to pay time and a half of the regular pay rate. Employers and employees can enter a written agreement to get paid time off for any overtime rather than overtime pay. The regulations surrounding hours of work and break times can be complicated but they are strictly regulated by the Ministry of Labour. To ensure you are not breaking any labour laws as an employer, contact our HR line to get advice today!

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