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Work hours and overtime

Region: Ontario Answer # 586

Under the Employment Standards Act, the Government of Ontario sets the maximum number of hours that most employees are allowed to work, and establishes the amount that employees must be paid for working overtime. However, these rules do not apply to some workers, such as federal employees, professionals, full-time firefighters, police officers, construction workers, domestic workers, in-home care workers, individuals working in hospitality services and sales, and those in the agriculture and fishing industries.

Maximum hours per day

Most employees are not supposed to work more than eight hours in a day, or the number of hours that have been established as a regular workday, if it is longer than eight hours.

If an employer wants an employee to work more than the legal maximum hours per day, there must be a written agreement between them.

Maximum hours per week

Generally, employees are not allowed to work more than 48 hours in a seven-day work week. If an employer wants the employee to work more than the maximum 48 hours a week, there must be a written agreement between the employer and the employee.

Employees can cancel the agreement regarding excess hours by giving their employer two weeks’ notice. Employers can cancel the agreement by giving the other party reasonable notice.

Unionized employees

If the employee is part of a union, the employer is required to get the union’s consent before requiring the employee to work more than 48 hours per week.

Overtime pay

If an employee works more than 44 hours in a work week, the employer is required by law to pay the employee overtime pay for the amount of time worked over 44 hours. Overtime pay is the regular wage plus one half of that amount, often called time and a half.

An employee also has the option of being compensated for overtime hours by receiving one and a half hours of paid time off for each hour of overtime worked, instead of overtime pay.


Hours free from work


Generally, employees must receive at least 11 consecutive hours off of work each day. This is the case even if the employer and employee have agreed in writing to exceed the employee’s daily limit of work hours, and the employer has received approval from the Director of Employment Standards to exceed the weekly limit of hours of work.

Weekly or bi-weekly

By law, employees are entitled to:

  • 24 consecutive hours off work each work week, or
  • 48 consecutive hours off work in every two work weeks

Breaks and eating periods

Employees must not work for more than five hours in a row without getting a 30-minute meal break free from work. However, this can be split into two shorter meal breaks if the employer and employee agree. Meal breaks are unpaid unless the employee’s employment contract specifies otherwise.

Get help

Different rules may apply for employees working shift work and under other circumstances. If you are unsure about work hours or how much overtime you are entitled to, or for more information, contact the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. You can also view the Ministry Guide to the Employment Standards Act which details the rights and obligations of employees covered under the ESA regarding minimum wage, hours of work, termination of employment, vacation and more. For legal help and assistance, contact an employment lawyer.

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