This document is provided for your information and convenience only. It is not legal advice. For complete information, please refer to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and its regulations.
The Employment Standards Act, 2000 sets out the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers in Ontario workplaces. It also contains provisions that apply to people who are seeking employment with temporary help agencies and, in some cases, to clients of such agencies, even though the client business is not the employer of the person filing a claim under the ESA.
The Employment Standards Act, 2000 sets out minimum rights for most employees in Ontario workplaces. It includes standards on payment of wages, public holidays, hours of work, overtime pay, vacation time and pay, statutory leaves, and termination and severance entitlements. If you are an employee working in Ontario, you are probably covered by the ESA. However, some employees are not covered by the ESA and some employees who are covered by the ESA have special rules and/or exemptions that may apply to them. For more information, visit Ontario.ca/ESAguide.
Yes, but there are different categories of agricultural employees, and some rules may not apply to all of them.
The four categories of agricultural employees are:
See the chapter entitled "Industries and Jobs with ESA Exemptions and/or Special Rules" in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
A farm employee is a person employed on a farm whose work is directly related to primary production of certain agricultural products. Primary production includes planting crops, cultivating, pruning, feeding and caring for certain livestock.
A harvester is a farm employee employed on a farm to harvest, or bring in, crops of fruit, vegetables or tobacco for marketing or storage, and there are some special rules for these employees.
Please see information later in this fact sheet on how minimum wage, public holidays and vacation with pay apply to harvesters.
Sometimes, employees do both harvesting and other primary production farm work. How most of the time is spent in any specific work week determines which rules apply.
For example, if the majority of the work done during a week involves harvesting, the rules for harvesters will apply (i.e., the employee will be entitled to minimum wage, and may qualify for public holiday entitlements and vacation with pay).
Or, if the majority of the work performed during a work week involves other farm work, the rules for non-harvester farm employees will apply (i.e., the employee will not be entitled to minimum wage, public holiday entitlements or vacation with pay).
Minimum wage is the lowest hourly wage an employer can pay employees.
The general minimum wage rate applies to harvesters except to certain students.
Students under the age of 18:
The table below sets out the general minimum wage and student wage rates:
|Minimum Wage Rate||October 1, 2015|
|General Minimum Wage||$11.25 per hour|
|Student Minimum Wage||$10.55 per hour|
For more information see the chapter on Minimum Wage in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
Piece-work rate is a way of calculating pay that is based on the amount of work an employee completes, and not on the hours worked.
For example, employees are paid a set amount for each unit harvested (i.e., for each basket of apples, or bundle of tobacco).
Harvesters can be paid on a piece-work basis, but the rate must be set at a level so that with reasonable effort they can earn at least the minimum wage for all the hours they work. The piece-work rate is set according to what is standard pay in an area for the particular crop involved.
(Note: students who work as harvesters can be paid on a piece-work basis but must be paid an amount equal to at least the student hourly minimum wage rate multiplied by the number of hours worked, even if the piece work rate was set at a level that the student should with reasonable effort have been able to earn the minimum wage for the hours and failed to do so.)
Amounts for room and/or meals (board), can be deemed to be payment of wages, but a harvester's gross pay before deductions (such as employment insurance or income tax) has to add up to at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. Room and meals can only be deemed to be paid as wages if the employee actually gets the meals and/or occupies the room.
Where the employee has been provided with room and/or board, the employer is deemed to have paid the employee the amount allowed for room and/or board. The employer must therefore pay the employee (before deductions for such things as Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI) or income tax) the difference between the minimum wage for all hours worked and the amount deemed to have been paid for room and/or board.
 housing accommodation must be reasonably fit for human habitation, have a kitchen with cooking facilities, two bedrooms or a bedroom and a living room and a private toilet and washing facilities.
 heat, light, fuel, water, gas or electricity provided at employer's expense.
Employers are only allowed to include these amounts if the room is reasonably furnished and reasonably fit for human habitation, supplied with clean bed linen and towels and has reasonable access to washroom facilities.
Room and meals
Example: Week of October 2-8, 2015 (General minimum wage rate =
An employer provides a private room for the harvester, and three meals a day. The employee worked 40 hours in the week at the minimum wage rate of $11.25 an hour.
The employee's gross wages are $450.00 (40 hours times $11.25 per hour).
The maximum weekly room and board deduction the employer is allowed to make is $85.25 (see amounts listed above).
Result: the employee's pay (before deductions for such things as CPP, EI or income tax) is $364.75 ($450.00 minus $85.25).
Harvesters who work for at least 13 weeks with an employer are entitled to take public holidays off work and be paid public holiday pay. To determine how much public holiday pay an employee is entitled to, or for more information on public holidays see the chapter on Public Holidays in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
However, harvesters are deemed to be employed in "continuous operations" (operations or parts of operations that do not shut down or close down more than once a week) for the purposes of entitlement to public holidays. They might be required to work on a public holiday when the public holiday falls on a day they would normally work, and they are not on vacation.
If they are required to work on the holiday, they will be paid either:
Harvesters qualify for these public holiday entitlements unless they:
 Employees are generally considered to have "reasonable cause" for missing work when something beyond their control prevents them from working. Examples are illness, injury, medical emergencies, deaths or other emergencies (including emergencies related to family members). Employees are responsible for showing that they had a reasonable cause for missing work. If they can do so, they still qualify for public holiday entitlements.
Harvesters who have been employed for 13 weeks but who are not entitled to public holiday pay or a substitute day off with public holiday pay for the above reasons are still entitled to be paid at least 1½ times their regular rate for hours worked on a public holiday.
After being employed for 13 weeks, harvesters are entitled to vacation with pay. This means that harvesters are eligible for a minimum of two weeks of vacation with pay after each 12 months of employment, starting from the date they are hired.
If the employer establishes a 12-month vacation entitlement year that does not start on the date of the employee's hire, the harvester is also entitled to a pro-rated amount of vacation with pay for the period (stub period) before the 12-month vacation entitlement year begins.
Vacation pay is calculated as at least four per cent of the harvester's "gross" wages (excluding vacation pay and before any deductions, including room and board) earned in the period for which the vacation is being given.
Employees who do not complete either the stub period or 12-month vacation entitlement year don't qualify for vacation time. However, harvesters who are employed for at least 13 weeks earn vacation pay for every hour worked in harvesting, so they will be entitled to at least four per cent of those wages as vacation pay.
For further details, including information about when and how vacation may be taken, see the chapter on Vacation in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
Yes, special rules apply to agricultural employees in the "near farming" category, whose employment is directly related to:
Special rules apply to landscape gardeners. (The same rules also apply to people employed to install and maintain swimming pools.)
Parks gardeners and greenskeepers on a golf course are considered to be "landscape gardening" employees. People working on retaining walls and those who spray roads and industrial sites for weeds are not "landscape gardening" employees, nor are the office employees in a landscape gardening company.
Yes, but this work is not considered to be agricultural work or farm work under the ESA.
Anyone whose work is directly related to the canning, processing or packing of fresh vegetables or fruits, or their distribution by the canner, processor or packer is entitled to all minimum ESA standards, including:
 Overtime pay usually applies to the hours worked above 44 hours in a work week. Seasonal canning, processing or packing employees (employees who work not more than 16 weeks in a calendar year for an employer) are only entitled to overtime for each hour over 50 hours worked in a work week.
Changes in the law that came into force on May 20, 2015 required employers to provide their current employees, including agricultural employees, with a copy of the ministry’s Employment Standards Poster by June 19, 2015. Any employee hired after May 20, 2015 must be provided with a copy of the poster within 30 days of the date the employee is hired.
If an employee requests a copy of the poster in a language other than English and the ministry has published a version in that language, the employer must provide the translated version in addition to the English copy.
Agricultural employees, like other employees, are also entitled to receive from their employer a written wage statement for each pay period, on or before the employee’s pay day.
The wage statement must set out:
All employers in Ontario, including anyone who employs agricultural employees, must keep written records about each person they hire.
Employee records-which can be maintained either by employers or by someone else on their behalf-must be readily available for inspection, and must be kept for three years.
Each employee's written record must contain:
Note: An employee is entitled to information about his or her vacation time and pay entitlement once with respect to each completed vacation entitlement year or stub period, on written request to the employer. For further details, see the chapter on Vacation in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
If an employee thinks the employer is not complying with the ESA, he or she can call the Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160 or toll free at 1-800-531-5551 for more information about the ESA and how to file a complaint. Complaints are investigated by an employment standards officer who can, if necessary, make orders against an employer-including an order to comply with the ESA. The ministry has a number of other options to enforce the ESA, including requesting voluntary compliance, issuing an order to pay wages, an order to reinstate and/or compensate, a notice of contravention, or issuing a ticket or otherwise prosecuting the employer under the Provincial Offences Act.
If you have questions about the ESA, call the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160, toll free at 1-800-531-5551, or TTY 1-866-567-8893. Information is available in multiple languages.
Information on the ESA can also be found at the Employment Standards section of the Ministry of Labour's website.
To file a claim, you can access the Employment Standards Claim Form online. Claim Forms are available in hardcopy format at select ServiceOntario Centres. You may also order a copy through ServiceOntario Publications online, or by calling 1-800-668-9938; Hearing Impaired TTY 1-800-268-7095.
To access the Employment Standards Act, 2000 visit the Ontario government e-Laws website.