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The Three Hour Rule : Understanding Ontario’s Employment Standards Act

Three Hour Rule

As an employee, it is important to be aware of your rights and entitlements under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in Ontario. One such provision that protects employees is the Three Hour Rule, which ensures that workers receive a minimum amount of pay if they are sent home early from their scheduled shift.

What is the Three Hour Rule?

The Three Hour Rule, also known as the “minimum pay rule,” is a provision in the ESA that guarantees employees a minimum amount of pay when they are sent home early from work. According to this rule, if an employee is scheduled to work for more than three hours but is sent home before completing their shift, they are entitled to receive payment for a minimum of three hours of work.

This rule is in place to protect employees from unfair treatment and to ensure that they are compensated for their time and availability. It applies to all employees covered under the ESA, regardless of their employment status, including full-time, part-time, casual, and temporary workers.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the Three Hour Rule provides a safeguard for employees, there are certain exceptions to its application. The rule does not apply if the employee’s contract explicitly states that they are not entitled to the minimum pay provision. Additionally, if the employee is unable to work due to circumstances beyond the employer’s control, such as a power outage or natural disaster, the rule may not apply.

It is important to note that the Three Hour Rule does not apply to employees who are on-call or called in for work but are not ultimately required to perform any tasks. In such cases, the employee may be entitled to a lesser amount of pay, as determined by their employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.

Calculating Minimum Pay

When calculating the minimum pay under the Three Hour Rule, employers must consider the employee’s regular rate of pay. This includes any wages, commissions, or piecework earnings that the employee would have earned had they completed their scheduled shift. However, it does not include overtime pay, vacation pay, or any other additional benefits or entitlements.

For example, if an employee’s regular rate of pay is $15 per hour and they are sent home after working only two hours, they would still be entitled to receive payment for three hours of work at their regular rate of $15 per hour.

Knowing Your Rights

It is crucial for employees to be aware of their rights under the ESA and the protections provided by the Three Hour Rule. If you believe that your employer has violated this provision or any other employment standards, you have the right to file a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

Before taking any action, it is advisable to gather evidence and documentation to support your claim. This may include records of your scheduled shifts, timesheets, or any communication with your employer regarding early dismissal and pay. Consulting with an employment lawyer or seeking advice from a legal clinic can also help you understand your rights and options.


The Three Hour Rule in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act is designed to protect employees from unfair treatment when they are sent home early from work. By ensuring that workers receive a minimum amount of pay for their scheduled shifts, this provision helps to safeguard their rights and financial well-being. It is important for employees to be aware of this rule and to assert their rights if they believe it has been violated.

Remember, as an employee, you have the right to fair treatment and compensation for your time and availability. Familiarize yourself with the employment laws in your jurisdiction to ensure that you are aware of your entitlements and can take appropriate action if needed.

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