What kinds of payment am I entitled to as a young worker?

There's a lot you need to know when you first enter the workforce in Canada. Learn all about minimum wages, tips, overtime pay, and more.

What is a young worker?

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) describes any employee under 25 as a "young worker." 

Young workers have the same rights as other workers, but there are situations with exceptions, especially if you're a student. 

What pay are workers entitled to?

Employers must pay their employees for their work by the hour or by an annual salary grid. 

Employers must pay their employees by cash, cheque, or direct deposit. No other forms of payment are allowed. 

Ontario's current minimum wage is set to $15.50 but will jump to $16.55 on October 1, 2023. 

However, if you're a student under 18 years old and work less than 28 hours during school or during holidays (e.g., winter or summer break), the minimum wage you're entitled to is $14.60. The minimum wage for students under 18 will jump to $15.50 on October 1, 2023. 

The ESA refers to employees who work remotely from home as "homeworkers.” Remote work can look like answering calls for a call centre or providing tech support. All homeworkers are entitled to at least $17.05 per hour, even if they are students. The minimum wage for homeworkers will jump to $18.20 per hour on October 1, 2023. 

Some students are not entitled to the minimum wage, including:

  • Students who are in training for professional programs like engineering, medicine, law, etc.
  • Students doing a co-op or work experience program through their high school board or post-secondary program
  • Students who care for children, like in a summer camp

Learn more about minimum wages here.

What is overtime pay?

Overtime pay is a higher payment rate for workers if they work more than 44 hours per week. 

You can get overtime pay by:

  • Getting paid at a rate of 1.5 times your set wages for each overtime hour 
  • Receiving paid time off at a rate of 1.5 times each overtime hour

Jobs that are not eligible for overtime include:  

  • Landscaping 
  • Students caring for children, like in a summer camp 
  • Installing and maintaining swimming pools 

You should know that your employer must give you a 30 min break after working five consecutive hours.

What are tips and gratuities?

Tips and gratuities are payments made voluntarily by customers, in addition to the cost of the product or service, usually to show gratitude. 

In some situations, employers may also mandate tips on bills given to customers, for instance, when their staff have to work harder than usual to serve a large group of people at a restaurant. 

There are some rules set around tips by the ESA:

  • Tips are not considered wages, and employees must still be paid the minimum wage, even when collecting tips.
  • If the employer collects all tips, they must distribute them within a "reasonable” time frame, but the time frame depends on each circumstance. 
  • Like wages, tips must also be paid only in cash, cheque, or direct deposit. 

You should know that your employer:

  • Is allowed to pool all the tips that staff earn and then redistribute it fairly 
  • Cannot withhold or deduct your tips to cover the cost of spillage, losses, damages, etc. 
  • Is not allowed to share in the tip pool unless they are the sole owner of the business or unless they regularly take on the same duties as their staff

As an employee, you are not allowed to bargain with your tips (e.g., for a higher wage, or for a lower wage and a higher share of the tips from the tip pool). 

Learn more about tips and gratuities here. 

What is vacation pay?

Vacation pay is the money all workers are entitled to so they can take time off. 

You are not entitled to vacation pay for the first 12 months of employment. After a year of employment, you are entitled to 4% of your gross wages (meaning before taxes) every year. After five years of employment, you are entitled to 6% of your annual gross wages. 

If you change jobs, your vacation pay will reset, and you'll have to complete at least a year at your new workplace before you can earn any vacation pay. 

Vacation pay can be given:

  • In a lump sum before you take time off
  • On each paycheque, if you agree in writing 

Another way to get paid time off is by taking vacation time while your employer continues paying your regular salary. You are entitled to two weeks of paid vacation if you've worked with an employer for over a year but less than five years. After five years, you're entitled to three weeks of paid vacation. Like vacation pay, your vacation time will reset if you switch jobs. 

If you do not work 40 hours every week, your vacation time will be calculated according to how much you work.

If you don’t use the vacation time you get that year, you have ten months to take it sometime the year after. It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure you take your time off before ten months. 

The vacation pay and time outlined above are the minimum that any worker in Ontario is entitled to. You may have an employment contract or a collective agreement that provides you with more than this. 

Learn more about vacation pay and time.

You should know that public holidays cannot replace vacation time. You have the right to refuse work on a public holiday. If you decide to come to work on a public holiday, you must get overtime pay.  

Ontario's public holidays are:

  • New Year's Day
  • Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

Use this calculator to determine how much you should get paid for working on a public holiday. 

What is the three-hour shift rule?

The three-hour shift rule says that employers in Ontario must pay workers for at least three hours if you come in for a shift, even if you end up working less.

The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • If something happens beyond the employer's control, like a power outage.
  • If you're a student caring for children, like in a camp.
  • If you're a student working for a recreational program run by a charity or not-for-profit organization.

When can an employer deduct my pay?

An employer can deduct your pay for uniforms and other equipment needed for your job ONLY if you agree to it in writing.

An employer CANNOT deduct your pay for making mistakes, like spoiling a food order or damaging company tools. 

What do I do if my employer does not pay me what I'm entitled to?

You should file a claim with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development if you need to recover wages that an employer owes you. 

Get in touch with the Employment Standards Information Centre to get help:

  • 416-326-7160
  • Toll-free in Ontario: 1-800-531-5551
  • TTY (for hearing impaired): 1-8666-567-8893

Keep in mind that you must file a claim within two years of the incident. 

Learn more about filing a claim