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Domestic Workers

What is the Employment Standards Act?

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) 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, see the Special Rule Tool.

What are domestic workers?

Domestic workers are employed directly by householders, and not by a business or agency. An employee who is hired by a business, agency or any person other than the householder to perform homemaking services for a householder is classified as a 'homemaker' and subject to special rules and exemptions under the ESA. A householder is someone who owns or rents the home where the domestic work is done.

Domestic workers are hired to work in a private home. They do things such as housekeeping, or provide care, supervision or personal assistance to children or people who are elderly, ill or disabled.

Domestic workers have the same rights under the ESA whether they work part-time or full-time, and whether they live in or out of their employer's home.

A sitter who provides occasional, short-term care, supervision or personal assistance to children is not considered a domestic worker.

Does the ESA cover domestic workers?

Yes. Domestic workers have the same rights as other employees in Ontario workplaces under the ESA.

In the past, 'domestic servants' were exempt from a number of parts of the employment standards laws, while 'domestics' were exempt from others. There is no longer a distinction between a domestic and a domestic servant.

Does the ESA cover domestic workers who are temporary foreign workers?

The ESA generally applies to all employees working in Ontario, including temporary foreign workers.

In addition to the ESA, a domestic worker who is also a foreign national that is working or is seeking work in Ontario pursuant to an immigration or foreign temporary employee program is also covered by the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 (EPFNA). For more information on this law, please see What is the EPFNA and does it cover domestic workers who are temporary foreign employees?

What rights do domestic workers have under the ESA?

The ESA contains rules on the following key subjects that apply to most employees in Ontario, including domestic workers:

  • minimum wage
  • regular payment of wages
  • hours of work protections (e.g., maximum hours of work, daily and weekly/biweekly rest periods)
  • overtime pay
  • vacation with pay
  • public holidays
  • pregnancy and parental leave
  • sick leave
  • family responsibility leave
  • bereavement leave
  • family caregiver leave
  • family medical leave
  • critical illness leave
  • organ donor leave
  • reservist leave
  • crime-related child disappearance leave
  • child death leave
  • domestic or sexual violence leave
  • termination notice and/or pay in lieu of notice
  • severance pay
  • equal pay for equal work

Employers are required to provide their employees with a copy of the ministry’s Employment Standards Poster within 30 days of the date each individual becomes an employee.

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.

English and French versions of the poster and multilingual versions are available online.

For details on all of the employment standards listed above to which domestic workers are entitled, please see Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act.

What is the minimum wage rate for domestic workers?

Minimum Wage Rate January 1, 2018
General Minimum Wage $14 per hour
Student Minimum Wage $13.15 per hour

The general minimum wage rate applies to domestic workers except to certain students.

Students under the age of 18:

  • who work no more than 28 hours a week when school is in session, or
  • who work during a school holiday (for example, March break, Christmas break, summer holidays)

are entitled to the student minimum wage. Students who work more than 28 hours a week when school is in session are entitled to the general minimum wage.

For more information see the chapter on “Minimum Wage” in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act.

Can an employer take into account the provision of room and meals to a domestic worker when calculating minimum wage?

Yes, but there are limits. Room and/or meals (board) will not be considered wages unless the employee has received the meals or occupied the room.

An employee's gross pay, before any deductions are made for such things as Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Employment Insurance (EI) and income tax, must add up to at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. However, the ESA and regulations provide that the following amounts are deemed to have been paid if the employer provides the employee with room or board or both:

Room (weekly)

  • private: $31.70
  • non-private: $0.00

In order to be deemed wages the room provided must be reasonably furnished, fit for human habitation, have access to proper toilet and wash basin facilities, and must be supplied with clean bed linen and towels.


  • each meal: $2.55
  • weekly maximum $53.55

Room and meals (board): weekly

  • private room: $85.25
  • non-private: $53.55 (this amount only applies to domestic workers)

The employer is deemed to have paid the employee the amount allowed for room and/or board once the room and/or board has been provided. At this point, the employer may factor these amounts into the calculation of the employee’s pay and to ensure that the employee is paid at least the minimum wage.


Diondra works 40 hours per week as a domestic worker and her regular hourly wage is $14 per hour, the general minimum wage. Therefore Diondra is entitled to $560 gross pay per week ($14 × 40). Her employer provides her with a private room and meals, and is therefore deemed to have paid Diondra $85.25 (weekly maximum allowed for room and board). In this scenario, Diondra’s pay calculation for the week would be:

$474.75 (regular wages) + $85.25 (room and board)
= $560 (which amounts to $14 × 40 hours)

What if the employer does not follow the ESA?

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 claim. Claims can be filed online and are investigated by an employment standards officer who can, if necessary, make orders against an employer-including an order to comply with the ESA.

What is the EPFNA and does it cover domestic workers who are temporary foreign employees?

If a domestic worker is also a foreign national who is working or seeking work in Ontario pursuant to an immigration or foreign temporary employee program, then he or she also has rights under the EPFNA.

The EPFNA prohibits recruiters from charging fees to foreign nationals; prevents employers from recovering placement costs from the foreign national; prohibits employers and recruiters from taking a foreign national’s property, including documents such as a passport or work permit; and prohibits a recruiter, an employer, or a person acting on their behalf from intimidating or penalizing a foreign national from asking about or exercising his or her rights under the EPFNA. Please visit the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals page for more information.

For more information or to file an ESA or EPFNA claim

Please note: Employers are prohibited from penalizing employees for asking about or exercising their ESA or EPFNA rights.

If you have questions about the ESA or the EPFNA, 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.

Information about the EPFNA can be found at the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals page.

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help you understand some of the minimum rights and obligations established under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, 2009 (EPFNA). It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the ESA, EPFNA or their regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation. Although we endeavor to ensure that the information in this resource is as current and accurate as possible, errors do occasionally occur. The ESA provides minimum standards only. Some employees may have greater rights under an employment contract, collective agreement, the common law or other legislation. You may wish to obtain legal advice.