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Introduction

  • Issued: April 2005
  • Content last reviewed: January 2018

Under the Employment Standards Act, the maximum number of hours an employee can be required to work is:

  • eight hours a day, or the number of hours in an established regular work day that is longer than eight hours, and
  • 48 hours in a work week.

An employee may work hours in excess of these daily and weekly limits if he or she agrees to do so electronically or in writing and if certain other conditions are met. For information concerning agreements to work excess daily hours and agreements and approvals for excess weekly hours, see our information about Hours of Work and Averaging Hours.

Limits on hours of work – including any excess hours the employee is permitted to work where there is an excess hours agreement and an approval – can be exceeded only if there are "exceptional circumstances" as set out in section 19 of the ESA.

The ESA also requires that employees be given a certain number of hours during which they are free from work:

  • Daily (section 18(1)): an employee must have at least 11 consecutive hours free from performing work in each day.
    (Note: this requirement cannot be altered by an electronic or written agreement between the employer and employee.)
  • In Between Shifts (section 18(3)): an employee must also have at least eight consecutive hours free from performing work in between shifts. This requirement is in addition to the daily rest requirement in section 18(1). The requirement in section 18(3) does not apply where:
    • the total time worked on the successive shifts is 13 hours or less,
    • or
    • the employee and employer agree electronically or in writing to forego or shorten the eight-hour break.
  • Weekly or Biweekly (section 18(4)): an employee must also receive at least:
    • 24 consecutive hours off work in each work week,
    • or
    • 48 consecutive hours off work in every two consecutive work weeks
      (Note: this requirement cannot be altered by an electronic or a written agreement between the employer and employee.).

The daily, between shift and weekly/biweekly rest period requirements in the ESA do not apply if there are "exceptional circumstances" as set out in section 19 of the ESA

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