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Breaks in an 8 Hour Shift in Ontario: What to Expect?

Whitten and Lublin | Oct 22, 2018

In Ontario, most workplaces are regulated by the Ontario Employment Standards Act (2000), which sets break times in the workplace, among many other things. The only break guaranteed to employees under the Employment Standards Act is an unpaid 30-minute meal period within the first 5 hours of work. This meal period must be uninterrupted. Workers may choose to split this meal period into 2 separate 15-minute breaks, and this agreement may be made orally, electronically or in writing. Further, meal periods are not counted towards total hours worked. This means that an 8-hour shift may span over an eight-and-one-half hour period; however, this would only count as 8 total hours worked.

Many employees may have the benefit of additional coffee breaks, a paid lunch period, or so forth. If your employment contract or conventional standards in your workplace grant you greater benefits than the ESA with regards to breaks, then this greater benefit is binding. Overall, employers cannot contract out of the ESA provisions unless contracting out provides a greater benefit.

There are also special exemptions for certain employees that would alter the guarantee of a meal period, or preclude entitlement to a meal period at all. Some examples of job classifications that are not guaranteed meal periods include Architects, Chiropodists, Dentists, Engineers, Information Technology Professionals, Lawyers, Massage Therapists, Naturopaths, Public Accountants, Pharmacists, Residential Care Workers, Teachers, and more

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