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Break Times in Ontario Workplaces

Whitten and Lublin | May 17, 2018

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) provides most employees with one 30 minute meal break for every 5 hours of work. This meal break must be uninterrupted and does not have to be paid. Employees may also request to split this 30 minute period into two 15-minute breaks. Such agreement may be in writing or made verbally.

As may be a surprise to some, employees in Ontario are not entitled to two 15-minute breaks in addition to their 30 minute lunch period. Under the ESA, there are only provisions regarding 30-minute meal breaks. Employees, however, are entitled to greater benefits as compared to the provision in the ESA if their employer has established this in writing or through established practices. Thus, for instance, if it is an established practice for an employer to grant employees an additional two 15-minute breaks (paid or unpaid), this would take precedence and apply to the particular workplace. Some other greater benefits may include being paid for the 30 minute meal period, being paid for additional break periods, and so on.

There are some professions that are exempt from the provisions governing 30-minute uninterrupted meal periods. Some of these professions include chiropodists, chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physicians, physic therapists, psychologists, and so forth.

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