How Much Can Your Employer Legally Make You Work?

Curious about how much your employer can legally make you work? Here are your work questions. Answered.

For all this talk of #hustle, there hasn’t been much clarity on how much time we as students actually owe our jobs. It’s how myths are born.

One example is the misconception that 9-5, or an 8-hour day, is the longest day someone can legally work (not true). Or that one-hour lunch breaks are a standard thing. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, that people can legally be made to work 7 days a week.

To dispel these myths, we put together everything you’ve probably wondered (or know someone who has) about the rules when it comes to being a working student.

“Can they work me more than 8 hours a day?”

Yes. Your job can require that you work over 8, 9, and 13 hours a day.

The contract you sign will have to state that in advance, though.

“Is it overtime if I work more than 8 hours a day?”

Not in most provinces, unless you work for the Federal Government or work in British Columbia.

Everywhere else, the overtime threshold is calculated on a weekly basis (you could work 10 hours one day, and then fewer later on that week, and it would fly).

“When do I start getting paid overtime?”

In Ontario, Alberta, and New Brunswick, anything over 44 hours of work in a week is considered overtime.

For each hour you work over that, you’re owed time and half (your hourly salary x 1.5).

Provinces like Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, and the Federal Government consider the overtime threshold to be 40 hours, while provinces like PEI and Nova Scotia, 48.

“Do I have to work long weekends?”

Depends what industry you’re in. Retail and restaurant workers, for example, are SOL because, legally, the nature of these industries is “the show must go on.”

Anything in financial or public service—you’re free to not work.

Keep in mind that if Monday is the statutory holiday, Saturday and Sunday are considered regular, fair-game work days.

“How does stat pay work?”

If your place of work is closed on the statutory holiday, or it’s open but you didn’t work it, you should typically get paid the equivalent of your average shift.

In Ontario, if you work the day of the statutory holiday, you’re either owed a different (regularly paid) day off in place of the statutory day you didn’t rest, or you’re owed your average work shift pay (based on the last 4 weeks you’ve worked) plus 1.5 times your hourly rate for the amount of hours you worked.

Canadian provinces are generally on the same page about statutory holidays, though each has slightly different ways an employer can make it up to you if you did happen to work a stat holiday.

“Can they keep working me 7 days a week?”

Not legally. In Ontario, you should be getting 24 consecutive hours (aka one day) off each work week from your employer.

If that doesn’t happen, you should get a period of 48 hours (two days) off in the greater two week period.

“Don’t they owe me an hour for lunch?”

No. If you work a shift 5 hours or longer, they owe you half an hour. Unpaid.

“Can they make me work weird hours?”

There’s nothing illegal about requiring someone work overnight hours, or extremely early morning hours. Companies also don’t legally owe employees rides home.

“What about coffee breaks?”

Nope.

“If I work a close shift, do I have to work the open?”

Depends. Legally, you’re supposed to have at least 8 hours off work between shifts, and 11 consecutive hours off each day.

If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant, you’ll likely have been in the shitty situation where close runs late (say, 3 am), and you have to be back at work for 10 am to prep the place.

Not technically legal, but it happens. If you have smart management, they’ll send you home first the next day.

“What do people do when they need to work 7 days a week to make ends meet?”

They get a second job, or a side hustle. While each job individually can’t keep you busy 7 days a week, two or more combined gigs can.

Scheduling these can get tricky, and the burnout is real.

“If I’m training, should I be getting paid for that?”

Yes.

“If I’m picking something up for work, but I’m not technically on premises, does that count?”

If you’re transporting anything for work (ex. picking up supplies for a work gathering), that counts as on-the-clock work.

“How do I get more info?”

Here are some resources we’ve found useful. They link out to some fact pages you may want to see.

→ Ontario

→ British Columbia

→ Quebec

→ Alberta

→ Manitoba

→ Newfoundland

→ PEI

→ Nunavut

→ NWT

→ Saskatchewan

→ Yukon

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
Dana Iskoldski

Dana Iskoldski

Dana Iskoldski is the Editor-At-Large at Student Life Network. Also CGP (Chief Guinea Pig) in her search for brilliant career advice.