It’s that time of year again. Every year, when October 1st rolls around, there is a chance that the minimum wage rates may increase based on the inflation rate. Nearly a million workers—around 942,400—benefitted from bigger paycheques this month. The Ontario government increased the minimum wage to $16.55 an hour, up from $15.50 an hour—a 6.8% pay raise for low-income workers. With some quick math, that works out to an increase of almost $2,200 per year for someone who puts in a 40-hour work week.
This new minimum wage is the highest of any province in the country (though it is still less than the Yukon’s $16.77 rate), but what does this actually mean for you?
What is minimum wage, really?
The minimum wage is the lowest wage rate an employer can pay an employee in Ontario, which is set out in the province’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”). Most employees are eligible for this rate, whether they are full-time, part-time, casual or paid hourly, on commission, at piece rate, flat rate or salary. Since January 1, 2022, bartenders and liquor servers earn the same amount as the general minimum wage. You might see a different minimum rate than $16.55, however, depending on your situation.
The minimum wage for students is now set at $15.60 per hour, while homeworkers (i.e., those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers) now have a minimum rate of $18.20 per hour. Hunters, fishing, and wilderness guides have a separate minimum rate of $82.85 per day when working less than five consecutive hours a day.
|Minimum Wage Rate||October 1, 2023-Sept. 30, 2024||October 1, 2022-Sept. 30, 2023||January 1, 2022-Sept. 30, 2022|
|General||$16.55 per hour||$15.50 per hour||$15.00 per hour|
|Student||$15.60 per hour||$14.60 per hour||$14.10 per hour|
|Liquor Servers||$16.55 per hour||$15.50 per hour||$15.00 per hour|
|Hunting, fishing, and wilderness guides||$82.85 for working less than 5 consecutive hours in a day||$77.60 for working less than 5 consecutive hours in a day||$75.00 for working less than 5 consecutive hours in a day|
|Homeworkers||$18.20 per hour||$17.05 per hour||$16.50 per hour|
The definition of minimum wage might seem obvious on its face, but there are a few aspects to keep in mind when trying to determine if you’re getting paid the correct amount.
It is important to remember that the minimum wage is the absolute floor for wages for regular work. Employees who work overtime or on holiday will be entitled to overtime pay at a higher rate. If your employer is claiming that you are not entitled to overtime, but you are paid minimum wage, there is a very strong possibility that they are very wrong, and you are entitled to back pay.
The wage also cannot be lowered by employer deductions unless they meet a very specific set of rules. If your employer is deducting amounts from your pay, it is always worthwhile to have a lawyer review your contract and pay stubs to see if what is happening is legal. A small $25 deduction for “admin fees” on each paystub is $1,300 a year you are entitled to.
It is also critical to remember that the minimum wage applies to salaried employees. The amount earned by an employee in a pay period divided by the number of hours worked by the employee in that pay period must be the minimum wage rate. This includes the entitlement to overtime pay at time and a half. A full-time salaried employee working 40 hours a week should make $35,800 a year minimum, including vacation pay.
Does the minimum wage apply to you?
As these are the provincial minimum wage rates, they do not apply to federally regulated employees, like employees working for banks, airlines or airports, First Nations band councils, Crown corporations, port services, postal services, radio and TV broadcasting, railways that cross provincial or international borders, telecoms, etc. These workers are subject to the federal minimum wage.
In addition to federally regulated workers, the provincial ESA does not cover certain other types of employment situations, such as:
- Secondary school students enrolled in a work experience program approved by the school board;
- Students working under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or university;
- People who do community participation under the Ontario Works Act;
- Police officers;
- Inmates in work or rehabilitation programs or who work as part of a sentence or court order;
- People who hold political, judicial, religious or elected trade union offices;
- Major junior hockey players who meet certain scholarship conditions and
- People who meet the definition of a business consultant or information technology consultant under the ESA have a separate requirement to be paid at least a minimum of $60 an hour.
If you need clarification on whether the minimum wage applies to you, please call us at De Bousquet PC, where we can help you determine your entitlements. It’s best to check with a lawyer who can help you through the process of interpreting legal statutes and your employment contract. Like the rules governing minimum wage, these seem straightforward but can contain deceptively difficult clauses.
Check Your Contract, Check with Us
If the change to the minimum wage rate came into effect partway through your pay period, it will be treated as two separate periods, with the applicable rate applied to each period. So it’s a good idea to be extra safe and check that you received the correct amount.
If you review your paystubs after October 1, 2023, and notice that you are not receiving at least the minimum amount due according to the above table, or if you would like some clarification on how you’re being paid, give us a call at De Bousquet PC to discuss your options. Our lawyers are well-versed in employment law and can best advise you on how to navigate pay issues.
It’s always a good idea to contact a law firm if you’re unsure about something in your contract. At De Bousquet PC, we offer a variety of fee options that can be tailored to best suit your situation and your needs. For many cases, we have options for a contingency retainer, where we get paid out of what we win for you. The bottom line is that you should feel free to call us, and rest assured that we will take your matter seriously.