Working hours in Canada

Businesses can employ anyone that fits a job description and is eligible to work. However, you must follow the standard working hours and overtime regulations in Canada. Here is an overview of the hours of work to expect from your employees.


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What are the standard working hours in Canada?

The standard working hours for employees in federally regulated industries, such as air transportation, banking, and broadcasting are:

  • Eight hours per day
  •  40 hours per week

While daily work hours can be any period within 24 hours, weekly work hours are any period from midnight on  Saturday to midnight of the next Saturday.


These work hours do not apply to superintendents, managers, and other workers who perform managerial duties. The Canada Labour Code also excludes architects, lawyers, medical doctors, dentists, and engineers. Instead, they have special working hours, depending on the business’s needs and the nature of their work.


Regulations allow different standard working hours for some employees in certain industries such as truck drivers in the trucking industry, commission salespersons in the banking industry and employees in the shipping industry.


You must record the hours your employees work each day and retain these logs for 36 months after the employee completes their tasks. You can use these detailed logs to show you complied with federal laws or to make overtime payments.


What does the law consider being overtime?

Overtime refers to any hours that your employees work outside of their standard working hours. The overtime rate for employees in federally regulated industries is 1.5 times the regular hourly rate. However, employees can get a higher rate, depending on the terms you agree with them.


Overtime entitlements do not apply to some professionals and managers such as architects, lawyers, doctors, engineers and dentists. When the total overtime hour for a day is different from the total overtime hours for a week, your employees can use the greater amount to calculate their overtime payments.


 Employees are entitled to overtime payments if they work during a federal holiday.&To calculate this pay, take out 8 hours from their standard work hours to determine when their overtime payment starts for any holiday. For example, overtime payments must apply after 32 hours in a week where one holiday occurs and the standard work hours is 40.


When calculating overtime payment, you must not include the hours your employees work on a holiday.


Overview of averaging hours

The nature of some professions can make irregular working hours necessary. Employees like pilots, truck drivers and bus operators may have irregular work hours or regular hours that vary among work periods. In such situations, you can average the work hours over multiple workweeks following section 6 of the Canada Labour Standards Regulations and part III of the Canada Labour Code.


Calculate the standard hours in an averaging period by multiplying each week in a period by 40. When an employee exceeds the standard working hours in a period, overtime applies. You can calculate averaging hours over periods of at least two weeks.


If you terminate your employee’s contract during an averaging period, your employee must receive their overtime entitlements. First, multiply the number of weeks in an averaging period that the employee completes by 40 and count the number of hours an employee exceeded.


If your employee ends their contract during an averaging period, they can only receive wages for hours they completed in the averaging duration.  Employers calculate these payments at the regular hourly work rate.


Holidays and leave also affect the standard and maximum hours an employee can work during averaging hours in the following ways:

  • For holidays with pay–reduce by 8 hours
  • For annual vacations–reduce by 8 hours
  • For bereavement leave with salary–reduce by 8 hours
  • For seven consecutive days where there are no fixed working hours–reduce by 40 hours
  • For days that are not normal working days where they get a regular salary–reduce by 8 hours
  • For weeks that are not normal working periods where they get regular pay–reduce by 8 hours


Example of how to calculate averaging hours and overtime pay

Paul is a cook in Ontario and the agreement with the employer states he has to work 46 hours a week. In three weeks, he works 52 hours in the first week, 42 hours in the second and 58 hours in the third. His employer pays him $12 an hour for regular work hours and $18 an hour for overtime.


Paul worked an average of 52 hours per week. His overtime hours are 52 average hours per week minus the 46 hours in his agreement, which sums up to 6 hours per week.  Therefore, his overtime pay is six times $18 for three weeks which equals $324. 


Rests and breaks required

Employees in federally regulated industries must have one day of rest in a week, which is usually a Sunday. When a holiday occurs, their standard working hours reduce by eight hours a week.

  The Labour Code allows 30 minutes of break per five consecutive working hours in Canada. Your employees cannot split, cancel or postpone the break, even if they request it. The only situation when an employee can delay this break is when they are working to resolve an unforeseen issue or threat. 


  Your employees must take their 30-minute break before the five consecutive hours end. During this period, they are free to do other things besides work in their workplace or elsewhere. Since the break is not working time, you may not have to pay your employees for this period. However, if you require your employees to be present during the break, you must pay them for that time. For example, if you request call centre representatives to stay in your call centre during their 30-minute break, you must pay for this period. 


These breaks do not apply to workers like lawyers, engineers, dentists, medical doctors, directors and related professions that are not part of the Labour Code’s work hours provision.


Working hours in Canada FAQs

Here are answers to common questions about working hours in Canada:

How many hours can students work in Canada?

  Students can work 8 hours daily and 40 hours weekly, like employees in federally regulated industries. They do not have overtime entitlements. Therefore, they cannot work more than the legally allowed hours for any employer. With modified work schedules, students must not work for more than 40 hours a week. Also, they must have at least 8 hours of rest daily and 30-minute breaks after working for 5 hours.


How many hours are employees legally allowed to work in a day in Canada?

  Employees can work a maximum of 12 hours per day.  They can exceed these hours during exceptional circumstances, emergency work and averaging periods if the work agreement details these situations. During these situations, it’s important to satisfy the Ministry of Labour that extra work hours are necessary for your employees. You also have to apply 60 days in advance to get a permit that specifies the number of work hours employees can work. During emergencies, you do not need a permit from the Minister of Labour. Instead, you can send a report that includes the emergency’s details to a trade union.

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