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Work Schedules and Breaks

Employers must provide work schedules to their employees at least one week before the schedule starts.

1. Work Schedules

Employers must provide work schedules to their employees at least one week before the schedule starts. An employer can change an employee's schedule with less than one week of advance notice if unexpected, unusual or emergency circumstances arise. For example, if a large storm forces a business to temporarily shut down, the employer will need to notify employees not to report to work with very little notice.

Work schedules must cover at least one week (seven days in a row). The schedule must state:

  • when work will begin and end each day; and
  • when meal breaks will begin and end.

Schedules can be given to the employee personally, posted in the workplace, posted online on a secure website to which the employee has access, or provided in any other manner that informs the employee of the schedule.

Employees must receive at least eight consecutive hours of rest in any period of 24 hours. Employees must receive this break unless there is an emergency.


2. Meal Breaks

Most employees are entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes within every five hours of work.

An employer must provide an employee with an unpaid meal break at a time or times necessary for medical reasons. The employee is expected to work with the employer to set up a reasonable accommodation.

An employer isn't required to give a meal break where there is an unexpected, unusual, or emergency circumstance or it is not reasonable for an employee to take a meal break. In these cases, where a meal break isn't required, employees must be allowed to eat while working after they have worked for five consecutive hours. If an employee is directed to work or be at an employer's disposal during a meal break, the employee must be paid for the time. For example, an employee who has been directed to stay in the office over lunch to answer phone calls is at the disposal of the employer and must be paid for the time, even if no one calls.

Rest Breaks

The legislation does not require the employer to provide rest breaks. However, if rest breaks are provided, they are paid breaks.


3. Days of Rest in a Week

Employees who usually work 20 hours or more per week must receive at least 24 consecutive hours away from work every seven days (except when fighting forest or prairie fires). 

Retail Employers and Employees

Employees in the retail trade get two consecutive days off in every seven days, with one day off being a Saturday or Sunday whenever possible. This rule does not apply to:

  • retail businesses with fewer than 10 employees
  • retail employees who work less than 20 hours per week;
  • retail businesses subject to a municipal bylaw requiring closing on a day other than Saturday, Sunday or Monday; or
  • retail businesses that have modified work arrangements (including hours of work arrangements in collective agreements) or averaging of hours permits.

Employers can apply for a permit or variance to change the days of rest requirements.

Limit on Hours of Work Per Week

Overtime rules apply to eligible employees after 40 hours in a regular work week. An employer must get the employee's consent to work more than 44 hours in a week. The employee cannot be disciplined for refusing unless there is an emergency.

Overtime rules apply to eligible employees after 32 hours in a week with a public holiday. If a public holiday occurs in a week, the employer must have the employee's consent before having the employee work more than 36 hours in that week. The employer can require the employee to work more than 36 hours when there is an emergency circumstance.


4. Special Rules

Permits to Vary the Scheduling Rules

Employers may apply for an authorization from the director of Employment Standards to vary the requirement to post a work schedule or a change to the work schedule.

In unionized workplaces, the Director of Employment Standards may permit a variation from the requirements of this section if the employer has obtained the written consent to the variation from the union that is the bargaining agent for the employees.

Employers in a Hotel, Restaurant, Educational Institution, Hospital, or Nursing Home

Employers in these industries must provide employees who finish work between 12:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. with free transportation to their place of residence.

Employers must confine the hours of work of each employee to a period of 12 hours in any one day. The employer must not require or permit any employee to report for duty on more than two occasions in that 12-hour period.

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