Worker power made Ontario’s minimum wage go up from $15.50 to $16.55 on October 1. We fought to have inflation protection built into the Employment Standards Act (ESA). Victories like this 6.8% increase need to be celebrated. But our work does not end there: We know it falls on workers to make sure our rights at work are actually enforced.
Check your pay cheque to ensure you’ve been paid at least $16.55 per hour (or $15.60 if you’re a student 18 years or under). If you see less than the new minimum wage, tell your boss about the increase and call us at 416-531-0778 if you need support.
The Ministry of Labour is responsible for making sure employers follow the law regarding our wages and all worker protections. But the Ministry does very little proactive enforcement, especially since the pandemic. So far this fiscal year, the Ministry has conducted less than 800 inspections compared with 2,490 inspections in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Instead, individual workers must make complaints. To do so, you have to learn the law, jump language barriers, overcome the red tape of the claims filing process, and withstand threats of retaliation from employers.
When workers do manage to file a successful claim, unpaid wages are only recovered about 40% of the time. The Ontario government tends not to use all of the powers at its disposal to get workers their money. As a result, too many employers are confident they can get away with wage theft.
But the more workers stand up for our rights, the more we can win! Here are some things we can do, both collectively and individually, to better defend our rights:
Know Your Rights
Employers often mislead workers about our rights and entitlements. To take action to defend our rights, we first have to know what they are! If you want to learn more, join us for an upcoming Know Your Rights workshop:
- English – Know Your Rights:
- Thursday, November 2 (6:30 PM to 8:00 PM)
- Thursday, December 7 (6:30 PM to 8:00 PM)
- Spanish – Conozca sus derechos:
- Jueves, 26 de octubre (6:00 PM a 7:30 PM)
- Jueves, 23 de noviembre (6:00 PM a 7:30 PM)
Check out our resources page for more workers’ rights materials available in multiple languages!
Beat the bad bosses at their own game by keeping good records!
It’s important to be prepared in case your rights are violated at work.
You’ll want to know as much as you can about your employer: What’s the legal name of the company? What’s your boss’ full name? Find out as much as you can including addresses, contact information such as email address, social media accounts, and phone numbers. This will make it easier to find them if you need to recover wages.
It’s also a good idea to read and keep copies of these documents: employment contracts, termination or discipline letters, pay stubs, cheques, and tax forms. They give you important information about your employer and the terms of your employment.
Read documents before signing them. If you’re pressured to sign your contract without reading it, take a photo or get a copy so you can review it later!
Keep your own record of the hours and dates you worked, and the details of the work you do every day. This way you’ll be able to prove how much you worked and what wages you are owed. You should also keep copies or screenshots of communication you have with your employer: texts, emails, phone calls, and letters.
For more tips, check out our Checklist for Workers.
Talk to your co-workers!
Find out if your co-workers are experiencing the same problems at work. You can strategize together, share information, and present a united front.
Remember, it is illegal for your boss to fire you for speaking about your rights under the ESA. If this happens to you, write down the details of how and when you were fired. Call the Workers’ Action Centre so we can support you and your co-workers in fighting for your rights!
File an Employment Standards Act Complaint
If you know that your employer is violating one of your employment standards rights, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. It’s free and there’s no financial penalty if you lose. Gather as much information as you can, including evidence of your employment relationship, the hours that you worked and the terms of employment you agreed on. An Employment Standards Officer will investigate your claim by asking questions of you and your employer before making a decision. It usually takes about 6-8 months.
Find out more about what to expect from the employment standards complaint process here. If you have questions about any step of the ESA claims process, contact the Workers’ Action Centre for support!
Join the Movement for Decent Work!
Taking on one workplace problem at a time is not enough. When we organize together, we can change the weak laws that keep us in poverty. Join the movement of thousands of workers calling for justice! We demand decent wages, paid sick days, equal pay, labour laws that protect us all, AND effective enforcement of our rights.