Table of Contents | Print Print This Page

Hours of Work

This workbook has been prepared to assist employers and employees in understanding some of their obligations and rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and its regulations. It does not take the place of the ESA and its regulations and it should not be considered to offer any legal advice on your particular situation.

There are limits to the number of hours most employees can be required or allowed to work. Generally, the daily and weekly limits are eight hours and 48 hours, respectively. However, some businesses and/or employees are exempt or subject to special rules. The Special Rule Tool can help you find out if an exemption or special rule applies.

Daily Limits of Work

The maximum number of hours most employees can be required or allowed to work in a day is eight hours or the number of hours an employer has established as the employee’s regular work day, if it is longer than eight hours.

Exception to Daily Limits of Work

Generally speaking, an employee can be required or allowed to work more than the daily limit only if he/she has agreed in writing and was provided with the handout entitled Information for Employees: About Hours of Work and Overtime Pay, prior to the agreement. The agreement must contain an acknowledgement that the information sheet was provided.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even if these conditions are met, generally an employee still must have 11 consecutive hours free from work in each day (24 hour period). For more information about Daily Rest, see the Hours of Work & Overtime Tool.

Weekly Limits of Work

The maximum number of hours most employees can be required or allowed to work in a week is 48 hours.

Exceptions to Weekly Limits of Work

Generally speaking, an employee can be required or allowed to work more than the weekly limit only if he or she has agreed in writing and was provided with the handout entitled INFORMATION FOR EMPLOYEES: About Hours of Work and Overtime Pay, prior to the agreement. The agreement must contain an acknowledgement that the information sheet was provided. Unlike the daily limits of work, the approval of the ministry’s Director of Employment Standards is also required. (The weekly limit can be exceeded while an application for approval is pending, but certain conditions and restrictions apply.) For more information on the hours of work and overtime provisions, see the Hours of Work & Overtime Tool.

Things to Consider

  • If an employer plans to have a work week that is longer than 48 hours or to average hours of work for overtime purposes, the Applications for Approval of Excess Hours or for Averaging Hours of Work provides step-by-step instructions. It is also strongly suggested that employers visit the Hours of Work and Overtime Tool for a more complete understanding of these employment standards.
  • Requiring or allowing employees to work more than 48 hours per week without the approval of the ministry’s Director of Employment Standards is a violation of the Employment Standards Act (ESA), unless:
    • the employee is exempt;
    • one of the ESA’s “exceptional circumstance” provisions applies; or
    • in certain cases, an approval application is pending.
  • An agreement between an employee and an employer to work additional daily or weekly hours, or an approval from the Director of Employment Standards for excess weekly hours, does not mean that the employee is not entitled to overtime pay. They are separate standards.

Employer Posting Requirements

Employers are required to post a copy of the application in at least one conspicuous place in every workplace where it is likely to come to the attention of the employees it applies to. The application must remain posted until an approval or notice of refusal is issued.

If 30 days pass from the date the application was served on the Director of Employment Standards and the employer has not been notified that the application has been refused, the employer may:

  • In the case of an Application for Excess Weekly Hours of Work, schedule employees to work up to the maximum of 60 hours per work week, provided that the conditions prescribed in the ESA are met.
  • In the case of an Application to Average Hours of Work for Overtime Pay Purposes, average hours of work over a period of two work weeks provided that the conditions prescribed in the ESA are met.

If the application is refused, a copy of the Notice of Refusal must be posted in at least one conspicuous place in the workplace so that it is likely to come to the attention of the employees covered by the application. The employer must keep the Notice of Refusal posted for 60 days following its date of issue.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Application forms for excess weekly hours of work or to average hours of work for overtime purposes are available at Ontario.ca/ESAforms. If you are considering an averaging application, it is suggested you consult the “Overtime Averaging” section of the Hours of Work and Overtime Tool.

The remainder of this chapter has been written with the assumption that employees are not exempt from regular hours of work rules and are not covered by special rules.

Hours Free from Work

Employees are entitled to a certain number of hours free from having to do work. These times include:

  • Daily rest periods
  • Time off between shifts
  • Weekly or bi-weekly rest periods

Daily Rest Period Requirements

In most cases, an employee is required to receive at least 11 consecutive hours off work each day (i.e., within a 24 hour period, not necessarily a calendar day).

The daily rest requirement applies even if the employer has received approval from the ministry’s Director of Employment Standards to exceed weekly limits on hours of work. This requirement cannot be altered by a written agreement between the employer and employee.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This rule does not apply to employees who are on call and called in to work during a period when they would not normally be working. For more information, see the “Daily Rest” section of the Hours of Work and Overtime Tool.

Time Off Between Shifts

Employers must give their employees at least eight hours off work between shifts, unless:

  • the employee and employer agree in writing that the employee will receive less than eight hours off work between shifts, or
  • the total time worked on both shifts does not exceed 13 hours.

For more information, visit the “Rest Between Shifts” section of the Hours of Work and Overtime Tool.

Example

Monica works in a restaurant. She is on split shifts, working from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The total time of her two shifts is six hours. Monica does not need to have eight hours off between the shifts because her total hours worked on the shifts does not exceed 13 hours.

Weekly or Bi-weekly Rest

Employees must receive at least:

  • 24 consecutive hours off work in each work week; or
  • 48 consecutive hours off work in every period of two consecutive work weeks.

Exceptional Circumstances

There are exceptional circumstances where an employer may require employees to work more than the daily or weekly work limits, or to work during a period that otherwise requires time off for the employee. The ESA’s exceptional circumstances apply only when it is necessary to avoid serious interference with the ordinary working of the employer’s operations. This is explained further below.

Exceptional Circumstances exist when:

  • There is an emergency;
  • Something unforeseen occurs that would interrupt the continued delivery of essential public services, regardless of who delivers these services;
  • Something unforeseen occurs that would interrupt continuous processes;
  • Something unforeseen occurs that would interrupt seasonal operations; and/or
  • It is necessary to carry out urgent repair work to the employer's plant or equipment.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • a natural disaster/very extreme weather;
  • a major equipment failure;
  • fire or flood (even if not caused by a natural disaster or extreme weather); and/or
  • an accident or breakdown in machinery that prevents others in the workplace from doing their jobs (e.g. the shutdown of an assembly line in a manufacturing plant).

Examples of situations that are not considered exceptional circumstances:

  • Rush orders being filled;
  • Periods of inventory-taking;
  • When an employee does not show up for work;
  • Poor weather slows shipping or receiving;
  • During seasonal busy periods (e.g. Christmas); and/or
  • During routine or scheduled maintenance.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Requiring an employee to work hours in excess of the daily or weekly limits, or during a period that requires time off for the employee in circumstances that are not exceptional (as described above), is illegal.

Miscellaneous Things to Remember

Night Shifts

The ESA does not put restrictions on the timing of an employee's shift other than the requirements for daily rest and time off between shifts, as described earlier. Also, the ESA does not require an employer to provide transportation to or from work if an employee works late.

Travel Time

The ministry considers the time an employee spends getting to or from a place where work was or will be performed (with the exception of commuting time) as working time. Commuting time is usually not seen as working time. Commuting time for an employee who has a regular work location is the time it takes him or her to get to work from home and vice versa. There are some situations where commuting time has been seen as working time (e.g., an employee takes a work vehicle home in the evening for the convenience of the employer or where the employee is required to transport supplies or other staff to or from the workplace or work site).

Training Time

Time spent by an existing employee in training that is required by the employer or by law is considered to be working time. An example would be training that is a condition to continued employment in a position.

Time spent in training that is optional to the employee (i.e., not required by the employer in order for the employee to continue in his or her job) would not be considered working time. An example of this would be if an employee was looking for a new position with the employer and training was necessary to obtain that position.

Hours of Work Checklist

Employers, please verify that employees in your workplace receive the correct:

  • Daily rest periods.
  • Time off between shifts.
  • Weekly or bi-weekly rest periods.

Employers, please also verify that:

  • You have a record of the hours worked by your non-salaried employees each day and week, and a record of the excess daily and weekly hours worked by salaried employees.
  • You have kept these for three years after the day or week of work.

Employees:

  • While it is the employer’s responsibility to keep records, it may also be beneficial for you to keep a daily record of hours worked.

Previous | Next

Questions? Call the Employment Standards Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551

Please complete our survey.