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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Content last reviewed: March 2014

What is the Ministry of Labour?

The Ontario Ministry of Labour and its agencies play a key role in the province by promoting health and safety, fair employment practices and stable labour relations in provincially regulated workplaces.

The ministry's three program responsibilities – occupational health and safety, employment rights and responsibilities and labour relations – are administered and delivered from a head office in Toronto, four other downtown Toronto locations and 24 district offices in four regions centred in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury.

The ministry is supported by the work of eight specialized agencies with varying degrees of independence from the ministry.

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What laws does the Ministry of Labour oversee?

The ministry:

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Who is covered by Ontario labour laws?

Most workers are covered by Ontario’s labour laws. However, there are some exceptions:

Employment Standards

Occupational Health and Safety

Labour Relations

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What rights and responsibilities do volunteers and their organizations have?

Volunteers are not covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Under the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act, 1997, some volunteers, such as volunteer firefighters are covered, but most are not.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a worker is defined in part as being “person who performs work or supplies services for monetary compensation”. Although this definition does not include volunteers, employers still have some responsibility for the health and safety of people visiting or helping out in their workplaces.

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What is the history of the Ministry of Labour?

The origins of the Ministry of Labour date back to 1882, when the Ontario government established the Bureau of Industry under the Department of Agriculture.

In 1900, the Bureau of Industry was renamed the Bureau of Labour. It was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to Public Works. The bureau, still under Public Works, was replaced in 1916 by the Trades and Labour Branch.

In April 1919, Bill 169 brought all labour matters under the new Department of Labour. It was renamed the Ministry of Labour in 1970 when the Department of Labour Act was repealed and replaced by the Ministry of Labour Act.

The Ministry of Labour has been integral to the establishment of Ontario’s work laws.

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How is the Ministry of Labour organized?

The Ministry of Labour is organized into six key areas overseen by the Minister of Labour and Deputy Minister of Labour.

  • Minister’s Office oversees the ministry’s political affairs. The office is run by political staff employed by the elected government. The office is headed by the Minister of Labour, an elected Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).c
  • Deputy Minister’s Office oversees the ministry’s bureaucracy. It is headed by the Deputy Minister of Labour, a civil servant appointed by the Secretary of Cabinet, Ontario’s top civil servant.

These offices oversee five key areas:

  • Operations Division, the ministry’s largest division, enforces Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and Employment Standards Act. Visit the Employment Standards and Health and Safety sections of our website.
  • Prevention Office, under the leadership of the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO), establishes and implements Ontario’s occupational health and safety strategy, develops training and safety program standards and works with Ontario’s health and safety system partners to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Visit the Prevention section of our website.
  • Policy, Program Development and Dispute Resolution Services Division provides policy and program development advice to the Minister of Labour on health and safety, workplace insurance, employment standards and labour relations matters. The division also provides neutral, third-party dispute resolution services. Visit the Labour Relations section of our website.
  • Corporate Management and Services Division provides administrative services to the ministry covering things such as business planning, financial control, human resources, facilities management, responses to freedom-on-information requests, and other business support services.
  • Communications and Marketing Branch provides communications services to the minister and all ministry policy and program areas.
  • Legal Services Branch provides a wide range of services, including legal advice to the minister and ministry staff and prosecutions under employment standards and occupational health and safety law. Visit the Legal Services section of our website.

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What are the Ministry of Labour’s agencies, boards and commissions?

The Ministry of Labour has eight agencies, boards and commissions:

  • Grievance Settlement Board provides dispute resolution services to the Crown employers and the trade unions/bargaining agents representing Crown employees in the Ontario Public Service and Crown agencies identified under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act.
  • Office of the Worker Adviser provides free advisory services to non-unionized injured workers and their survivors on workplace safety and insurance matters and represents them at appeal hearings.
  • Office of the Employer Adviser provides advice, representation and education on all workplace safety and insurance issues for employers.
  • Ontario Labour Relations Board is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal that mediates and adjudicates a variety of employment and labour relations-related matters under a number of Ontario statutes.
  • Pay Equity Office enforces Ontario’s Pay Equity Act and provides information and training on pay equity.
  • Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal hears and decides unresolved disputes under the Pay Equity Act.
  • Workplace Safety & Insurance Board administers no-fault workplace insurance for the employers and workers of Ontario.
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal is the final level of appeal for workers and employers with disputes involving workplace safety and insurance matters in Ontario.

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What is the relationship between the Ministry of Labour and its agencies, board and commissions?

Agencies, boards and commissions operate at arm’s length from the Ministry of Labour, with varying degrees of independence.

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How can I contact the Ministry of Labour?

Please visit the Ministry of Labour Contact Us page.

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Will the Ministry of Labour help find me a job?

No. The Ministry of Labour does not help people find employment. Its key responsibilities are occupational health and safety, employment rights and responsibilities and labour relations.

If you are seeking employment, please visit:

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What is a single Business Number?

A single Business Number is a universal company identifier that makes it simpler and more convenient for businesses to connect with the Ministry of Labour and its partners.

For more information on the ministry’s use of the single business number, visit the FAQ.

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