Wage Raises – What are your Legal Rights in Ontario?
So you’ve been at your job for a some time – maybe a couple of years – and you’re thinking to yourself: “aren’t I about due for a raise? I’ve been here a while, the cost of living has gone up, I’ve been a good, hard-working employee, shouldn’t my pay be going up?”
Many employees have found themselves in a similar situation with similar thoughts. So what are your entitlements when it comes to pay raises?
Unfortunately, the answer is often ‘nothing’.
Ontario employment and labour laws do not set out when or if pay increases shall be made with one exception: the minimum wage. The Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum wage and this wage is generally increased on an annual basis according to inflation.
Pay raises are entirely at the discretion of your employer. When, if and how much your pay increases are up to them to decide. Many employers will offer cost of living adjustments to ensure employees’ wages keep up with inflation but they are not obligated to do so. Theoretically, an employee could be with a company for 20 years and never see their wages increase so long as they remain above the minimum wage.
Most often, an increase in pay will be linked to performance or bonuses.
But then how does one get a raise?
Some employment contracts provide for specified wage raises and you are entitled to any pay increases specified in your employment agreement. Unionized employees, for example, often have annual wage increases included in their collective agreements.
You may now be asking yourself: “if there’s no provision for wage increases in my contract, how can I get a raise?”
The answer is that you will have to advocate for yourself and ask for one. If you are seeking a raise you should go to your manager with a proposal that justifies your wage increase. Present them with information that demonstrates the value you have added to the company such as your sales record or successful product design. In short, show them that you are worth it. That said, your employer is still under no obligation to increase your wage.