Skip to content

Can you be paid below the minimum wage? Only 1 answer: Absolutely No.

Ontario Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Ontario is governed by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers in Ontario, Canada. The minimum wage is the lowest rate an employer can legally pay their employees. It’s designed to provide workers with a minimum standard of living and protect them from exploitation.

Ontario has different minimum wage rates for different types of workers, including:

  1. General Minimum Wage: This is the rate that applies to most employees. Currently: $16.55 per hour.
  2. Student Minimum Wage: This applies to students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays. Currently: $15.60 per hour.
  3. Liquor Servers Minimum Wage (Defunct): There used to be a separate Liquor Server minimum wage; however, now it is the same as the General Minimum Wage.
  4. Homeworkers Minimum Wage: Homeworkers are employees who do paid work out of their own homes. They have a higher minimum wage rate to account for costs associated with working from home. Currently: $18.20 per hour.
  5. Hunting and Fishing Guides Minimum Wage: These employees have a minimum rate set for working less than five consecutive hours in a day and another rate for five or more hours in a day whether or not the hours are consecutive.

The minimum wage rates in Ontario are subject to change. The government periodically reviews these rates and may adjust them based on economic conditions and the cost of living. Increases are typically announced in advance to give employers time to adjust.

It’s also important to note that there are exceptions to these rates. Some job categories are exempt from the minimum wage provisions of the ESA, and instead, they are covered by other regulations or have their own specific wage standards.

For the most current information on minimum wage rates in Ontario, check out the Government of Ontario’s Your Guide to the Employment Standard Act Section on the Minimum Wage.

If an employer pays an employee below the minimum wage in Ontario, it’s considered a violation of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). The ESA sets out the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees and includes provisions to ensure that employees are paid at least the minimum wage.

What can I do if my employer pays me less than the minimum wage?

Here’s what can happen if an employer is found to be paying below the minimum wage:

  1. Complaint by the Employee: The affected employee(s) can file a claim with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. The ministry provides a process for employees to report violations of the ESA, including being paid less than the minimum wage.
  2. Investigation: Upon receiving a complaint, the Ministry of Labour will typically conduct an investigation to determine if the ESA has been violated. This investigation may involve reviewing payroll records, interviewing the employer and employees, and examining any other relevant documentation.
  3. Order to Pay: If the investigation finds that the employer has paid an employee below the minimum wage, the employer can be ordered to pay the wages owed to the employee. This includes paying the difference between what was paid and what should have been paid under the ESA.
  4. Penalties: Employers who violate the minimum wage provisions of the ESA may also face penalties, fines, and possibly prosecution. The severity of these penalties can vary depending on the nature of the violation, whether it was a repeat offense, and the extent of any harm caused to the employee.
  5. Public Interest: In some cases, if the violation is deemed to be of public interest, the Ministry of Labour may choose to prosecute the employer. This could lead to more severe consequences, including higher fines and a public record of the violation.
  6. Protection from Reprisal: The ESA protects employees from being penalized or terminated for asking their employer to comply with the ESA, including the minimum wage provisions. If an employee is fired, punished, or otherwise treated poorly for claiming their right to minimum wage, they may have grounds for a reprisal complaint to the Ministry of Labour.

If someone believes they are being paid less than the minimum wage, they are encouraged to document their hours worked, pay received, and any communications with their employer regarding pay. This information can be crucial if they decide to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

I work in a federal regulated industry, what is the minimum wage for me?

For federal workers in Canada, the wage regulations differ from those set by individual provinces like Ontario. Federal workers are covered under the Canada Labour Code, which sets out labor standards for industries regulated by the federal government. These include sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and interprovincial or international transportation.

In 2019, the Government of Canada introduced a federal minimum wage policy through amendments to the Canada Labour Code. Here’s how it works for federal workers:

  1. Federal Minimum Wage: The federal minimum wage applies to workers in federally regulated industries. If a province or territory’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum, the higher wage prevails for federally regulated workers in that region. Currently: $17.30
  2. Annual Adjustments: The federal minimum wage is subject to review and adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index, ensuring that it keeps pace with the cost of living.

More information on Pay and minimum wage for federal workers available from Employment and Social Development Canada here: Pay and minimum wage, deductions, and wage recovery

If an employer regulated by the federal government pays an employee below the required minimum wage, similar actions to those described for Ontario can be taken, but through federal channels:

  1. Complaint Process: The affected employee can file a complaint with the Federal Labour Program. This initiates an investigation into the alleged violation of the Canada Labour Code.
  2. Investigation and Enforcement: The Federal Labour Program investigates the complaint, reviewing wage payments and any other relevant employment conditions. If a violation is found, the employer can be ordered to pay the wages owed.
  3. Penalties: Employers found in violation of the Canada Labour Code, including paying less than the minimum wage, may face penalties, which can include fines and other sanctions.
  4. Protection Against Reprisal: Similar to protections under provincial legislation, the Canada Labour Code protects employees from retaliation for exercising their rights under the Code, including filing a complaint about wage violations.

For federal workers or those employed in federally regulated industries who believe they are being paid less than the minimum wage, it’s advisable to keep detailed records of work hours and pay. These records can be critical if they need to file a complaint or if there is an investigation into their wages.

How can I make a complaint for not getting the minimum wage?

And this is where we can help! If live or work in Peel, as an employee or former employee of a business that did not pay you for the minimum wage we can help you file a claim, no cost to you.

  1. For most workplace in Ontario if you did not get paid the minimum wage claims can be filed here: Filing an Employment Standards Claim
  2. If you are federally regulated though, you would file a complaint through the labour program. More information can be found here: Federally regulated employees – Filing a labour standards complaint with the Labour Program

We can help you through the process. We are a non-profit devoted to supporting workers.

Contact us now for more information.

(905) 696-7444

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *