Minimum Wage in Canada - Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a separate legislation relating to minimum wages in Canada?

Each province and territory have their own minimum wage legislation. The first minimum wage legislation in Canada was passed in 1918 by British Columbia and Manitoba.

Do one or more minimum wages exist that is/are determined by law?

Each of the 10 provinces and 3 territories have their own minimum wage rate. As of 2011, these rates have been adopted as the federal minimums for employees of industries under federal jurisdiction.

At what level are these minimum wages determined at?

Minimum wages are determined at the provincial and territorial level.

On what basis is minimum wage calculated?

In certain provinces for certain employment, minimum wage is calculated daily. In British Columbia, live-in camp workers must make at least $82/day, and live-in home support workers must make $102.50/day. In Ontario, hunters and fisherman must make $51.25/day for less than 5 hours of work and 102.50 for five or more hours in a day. Currently minimum wages in Canada are defined under the hourly rates. In certain provinces for certain employment, minimum wage is calculated weekly. For example, in Alberta, salespersons have a minimum wage of $389/week. In certain provinces, for certain employment, minimum wage is calculated monthly. In Alberta, domestic employees must make at least $1,854/month.

In case of weekly/monthly minimum age, are they based on any fixed number of hours?

Yes. British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec, Saskatchewan or Yukon use the federal standard of a 40 hour work week. In New Brunswick there is no such provision. In Alberta, the live-in domestic workers' monthly wage applies regardless of hours worked.

Are governmental bodies, employer and/or trade union representatives involved in minimum wages setting?

Provincial or territorial governments are involved in minimum wage setting. There are labour boards who make recommendations for minimum wages in the provinces of Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. The labour boards in Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and the Yukon have the power to establish the minimum wage with approval from the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. In all cases, the government has the final say.

How are upratings (adjustments) of minimum wage/s decided upon?

Upratings are decided unilaterally by the government. The minimum wages generally do not automatically increase according to the inflation rate, but are adjusted on an ad-hoc basis by provincial and territorial governments. But in April 1, 2007, Yukon became the first jurisdiction to peg annual increases in its minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index. A few provinces are bound by statute to review the minimum wage standard every year or two, but none is required to change it.

How frequently is the fixed component of minimum wage updated?

There must be an annual review in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Albeta raises on September 1 each year. A few provinces are bound by statute to review the minimum wage standard every year or two, but none is required to change it. In New foundland and Labrador there must be a review by the Minister at least every two years. Saskatchewan has a Minimum Wage Board that makes recommendations at least once every two years.

What is/are the yardstick/s on which minimum wage upratings are based?

Yukon pegs minimum wage increases to inflation. The labour boards of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick must take into consideration any increase in the cost of living. Nova Scotia raises to reflect changes in Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut-Off figures. Alberta links minimum wage to annual increases in the Average Weekly Earnings Index and the Consumer Price Index.

What is National Poverty line?

Click here to know the national poverty line in context with Minimum Wage, living wages and actual wages. Select the currency (Euro or national currency) to know national poverty line.

How is minimum wages compliance regulated?

Some provinces have non-profit organizations, such as Ontario's Workers' Action Center who fight for underpaid workers.

Which legal sanctions can be applied if compliance is lacking?

All provinces provide for fines for employers who pay covered employees less than the prescribed minimum wages.

Are sanctions often being applied?

In provinces like Ontario there have been problems with lack of enforcement due to backlogging of claims. "'Modernising' Employment Standards? Administrative Efficiency and the Production of the Illegitimate Claimant in Ontario, Canada" Authors: Gellatly, Mary; Grundy, John; Mirchandani, Kiran; Perry, J Adam; Thomas, Mark P; Vosko, Leah FPolicies like the Open for Business Act (OBA) are meant to make enforcement of violations more efficient, but their effectiveness is questionable.

Are employer and/or trade union representatives involved in compliance procedures?

In BC, before making a claim, employees must get employer approval.

To whom/Where can individuals complain, if they think they are earning less than minimum wage?

If no union is in place, one could complain to employer with risk of being fired. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (federal) has inspectors to investigate minimum wage violations. One can file a grievance with the union. Certain provinces have hotlines that people can call if they are getting paid below minimum wage. Employment Standards claims must be made in court, and the law obliges that employees can sue employer to make up difference of lost wages.