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Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in Canada

Standard working hours

In Canada, standard working hours are determined by provincial and territorial legislation, with some federal guidelines for federally regulated workplaces.

Provincial variations exist in the maximum weekly hours. Most provinces establish a maximum of 40 hours per week, with exceptions in some sectors. However, variations exist:

  • Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario: 48 hours per week
  • British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon: 44 hours per week

These are maximums, and the average actual workweek in Canada is lower.

There's no federally mandated standard for daily working hours. Provincial regulations typically don't specify a daily limit but establish maximum weekly hours.

The Canada Labour Code provides some general guidelines for federally regulated workplaces, stating standard hours as 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

Collective bargaining agreements negotiated between unions and employers can supersede provincial or federal regulations. These agreements may establish different standard working hours or workweek structures for specific industries.

Many employers offer flexible work arrangements that deviate from the standard hours. This could involve compressed workweeks, flextime, or remote work options.


In Canada, overtime regulations are established by provincial and territorial legislation, with some federal guidelines for federally regulated workplaces.

Generally, any hours worked beyond the standard workweek in your province or territory qualify as overtime. This typically applies to hours exceeding 48 hours per week in Alberta, New Brunswick, and Ontario, and 44 hours per week in most other provinces and territories. For federally regulated workplaces, overtime kicks in after exceeding the standard 40 hours per week. Some specific professions or industries may have different overtime thresholds outlined in provincial regulations.

Most provinces mandate a minimum overtime pay rate of time-and-a-half, which means 1.5 times the employee's regular wage. Some provinces, like British Columbia, have a higher rate for exceeding a specific daily threshold of overtime hours. In some instances, employers can offer compensatory leave in lieu of overtime pay, but this requires employee consent and adheres to specific provincial regulations. The Canada Labour Code dictates that federally regulated workplaces must compensate overtime at a rate of at least time-and-a-half.

Collective bargaining agreements between unions and employers can supersede provincial or federal regulations regarding overtime pay. These agreements may establish different overtime pay rates or calculation methods for specific industries. Certain professions or positions, like some managerial or sales roles, may be exempt from overtime entitlements under provincial regulations.

Rest periods and breaks

Canadian labour laws ensure minimum rest periods and breaks for employees. These entitlements are outlined in the Canada Labour Code. These standards apply to federally regulated workplaces. Provincial and territorial governments may have their own regulations for non-federally regulated sectors.

Employees are entitled to an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes during every period of five consecutive hours of work. This break must be provided in one uninterrupted period, and employers cannot split it up. There are some exceptions to this rule. Managers and certain professionals may not be entitled to breaks depending on their specific duties and responsibilities. If an employer requires an employee to be available for work during their break period, the employee must be compensated for that time.

In addition to breaks, employees are entitled to a minimum rest period of eight consecutive hours between work periods or shifts. This ensures that employees have adequate time to rest and recover before returning to work. Similar to breaks, there are exceptions to the minimum eight-hour rest period for certain managerial and professional positions.

Night shift and weekend regulations

Night shifts and weekend work in Canada do not have specific regulations under the Canada Labour Code. However, there are certain considerations that come into play for these types of schedules.

For night shifts, there is a potential for increased compensation. This is determined by individual employment agreements or collective bargaining agreements. Employers should be mindful of employee well-being when scheduling night shifts. While the Code doesn't dictate specific rest periods between night shifts, the eight-hour minimum rest period between any work periods still applies.

As for weekend work, the same minimum breaks and rest periods apply. If an employee works more than 40 hours in a work week, they may be entitled to overtime pay according to their employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.

It's important to note that some provinces and territories may have additional regulations regarding night shift and weekend work. These regulations can address aspects like premium pay for night shifts or restrictions on weekend work hours. Employees should consult their provincial or territorial labour standards for specific details.

General considerations for night shift and weekend workers include health and safety, as night shift work can disrupt sleep patterns and potentially lead to health issues. Employers should prioritize creating a safe work environment that considers these factors. Weekend work can disrupt personal schedules, so employers should be mindful of scheduling practices and try to accommodate work-life balance for employees who work weekends.

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