Working Hours

First published on Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Last updated on Thursday, Feb 09, 2023

We often lose track of time, whether it is at home or at work. However, it is extremely important that employers track their staff’s working hours so that there is no time wasted while at work.

Employers must also keep track of hours of work and the laws regarding them. This includes rest breaks and overtime. Getting this wrong can lead to legal trouble in the future which can result in costly penalties.

In this guide, we’ll explain what hours of work are, the law regarding them, and how to track your employees’ hours of work.

What are Hours of Work?

Hours of work are defined by employment standards legislation, as the hours worked by an employee in a day or week. Every jurisdiction limits the hours of work each employee is allowed to work in a day or week. For example, the maximum hours allowed to work in Ontario is 8 hours a day.

Rules and limits regarding hours of work apply to most employees. However, some employees are not covered under these rules. These include:

  • Professional engineers.
  • Public accountants.
  • Massage therapists.
  • Physiotherapists.

Employees who are exempt from these rules may work more than the maximum daily or weekly hours. However, this must be agreed to by both the employer and the employee. These rules do not apply in New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador.

This is generally done through an “averaging agreement.”

What is an Averaging Agreement?

An employer and employee may agree to exceed the maximum working hours under what is called an averaging agreement.

This is an agreement between the employer and employee that allows the employee to work a modified schedule. For example, an employee may agree to work 12-hour days in exchange for an extra day off.

Absent of an averaging agreement, employees may still work more than the maximum hours. However, the employer is required to pay the employee overtime. Overtime is calculated differently in each jurisdiction, but it is commonly calculated as 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage rate.

Although there is no rule regarding the minimum hours worked, legislation requires employers to pay employees at least three hours at their regular rate if they work less.

This is referred to as the “Three Hour Rule.” For example, there is no minimum hours allowed to work in Ontario. However, you must pay your employee for three hours, even if they only worked for 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 10 minutes.

If the employee leaves on their own accord, you are not required to pay the employee under the Three Hour Rule. It only applies if you tell them to leave before the three hours have elapsed.

How Many Hours Can You Work in a Week?

Employment standards legislation limits the maximum hours an employee may work in a week. For example, the maximum hours allowed to work in Ontario is 48 hours in a week.

An employee can work more than the weekly maximum hours permitted under employment standards legislation. However, you must pay the employee overtime or have an averaging agreement in place.

What is Considered Full-Time Work?

Full-time working hours in Canada are generally between 37.5 – 40 hours a week. Employment standards legislation does not differentiate between full-time and part-time employees. Whether you identify an employee as full-time is up to you and your business operations.

How to Calculate Hours Worked

It is important to keep track of all your employees’ hours of work. Both for the purposes of payroll and to avoid cases of time theft. There are various methods of calculating your employees’ hours worked. These include:

  • Manual Timekeeping: One of the oldest tricks in the book is tracking your employees’ hours of work via pen and paper. You would have each employee write down their daily hours. This method can be tedious and exposes you to potential time theft.
  • Electronic Timeclocks: Electronic timeclocks are widely used in various industries.

However, like manual timekeeping, they are susceptible to time theft as there is really no way of tracking when employees clocked in.

  • Mobile Apps: A mobile application allows employers to track when employees clock in through online-based software. This makes it convenient for employers to track employees from anywhere.
  • GPS: If you have employees who work on the road or are remote, you can track employees through GPS. The added benefit of GPS tracking is that you are in the loop of where all your employees are at all times.

How Many Hours Can a Student Work in Canada?

Students – whether high school or post-secondary – are permitted to work in Canada. However, there are statutory requirements employers must follow when employing students.

For example, in Ontario, employers may pay employees under the age of 18 a “student wage”. Some other provinces do not differentiate between student and minimum wages.

Recently, the federal government increased the working hours in Canada for international students. As of November 15, 2022, international students may work an unlimited number of hours off-campus. Previously, international students were only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. Rules regarding overtime and hours free from work still apply.

What Happens if Employees Work Too Many Hours?

If an employee works more hours than they are supposed to, they may be entitled to overtime pay. Moreover, employees who are working too many hours may be overworked and may lead to employee burnout.

Signs of employee burnout may include:

  • Decrease in productivity.
  • Difficulty to perform daily tasks.
  • Fail to meet deadlines.
  • Increased emotions.

If you are experiencing a workforce who are working too many hours, it is important that you reverse that trend and establish a healthy workplace culture by assisting employees who are experiencing burnout. You should insist on employees taking breaks or vacation. This will help improve their work-life balance.

You may also want to consider hiring. If there is too much work for employees, there could be an operational need to have more staff.

Get Advice on Hours of Work with BrightHR

It is important that you have an efficient method of tracking and recording employee working hours. Tracking hours can help ensure that you are complying with the law and preventing potential time theft in your workforce.

If you need assistance tracking working hours, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.

Contact us on 1 888 220 4924 or book a demo today.

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