Canada: Rights And Responsibilities Of Ontario Restaurant Owners And Employees

Last Updated: September 13 2018
Article by Paul J. Willetts

According to Restaurants Canada, the Canadian food service industry employs over 1.2 million people. With so many people involved in this industry, whether as franchise owners, professional chefs or part-time servers, it is important to be aware of the workplace rights and obligations that apply. The food services industry is in many ways unique, facing safety and cost challenges that many other sectors do not. With that in mind, we set out to provide an overview of some key employment rights and obligations:

Employee Wages

In Ontario, all restaurant staff must be paid in accordance with at least the applicable minimum wage. This rate can vary based on both the employee's age and/or position within the operation.

Ontario specifies a number of different minimum wage rates. If you work as a "Liquor Server", the current hourly minimum wage rate is $12.20. In order to qualify as a "Liquor Server" an employee must, as a regular part of their employment, serve liquor directly to customers, guests, members or patrons in a licensed premises (as defined under the Liquor Licence Act) and also receive tips as part of their work.

If the restaurant employs students (who are younger than 18 years old and work less than 28 hours per week during school, or work during breaks from school) they must receive at least $13.15 per hour. Beyond that, all other restaurant staff are entitled to be paid in accordance with the general minimum wage rate of $14.00. At present, all minimum wage rates are set to increase as of January 1, 2019 (though this may not occur as planned in light of the electoral platform of Ontario's new provincial government). Accordingly, it is important for restaurant owners and staff to monitor the situation and ensure compliance.

Staff Tipping & Gratuities

Tips are a common feature of many restaurants, and an important component of staff compensation. The Employment Standards Act defines a "tip or other gratuity" as a payment voluntarily left by a customer for an employee, or a service charge imposed by the employer.

Employers retain the right to decide whether tipping is permissible at their place of business. If a restaurant decides to disallow tipping, it should take proactive steps to make clear to all clientele that tips and gratuities will not be accepted by staff.

Beyond that, employers should establish a system for tracking tips, including a policy on how tips will be handled (which should be posted in the workplace) and how a tip pool will function (both in terms of how re-distribution of tips will be calculated and timing of payments). While employers are prohibited from deducting tips to cover costs such as spillage, breakage or loss, they can retain a portion of credit card processing fees as a result of tips and gratuities paid by this method. In particular, employers can deduct the greater of 1.5% or the percentage charged by the processing company.  

Employees are also strongly encouraged to track the tip amounts that they receive, including any amounts they receive through a tip pool.

Health and Safety of Staff and Customers

Whether you operate a restaurant, bar, nightclub, diner or fast food eatery, staff and customer safety is paramount. Food service operations face a number of unique challenges in this regard due to the high volume of people involved, the presence of cooking equipment, hot beverages and the potential for slips, trips and falls.

As such, it is important to be familiar with the health and safety requirements set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its associated regulations. As part of this process, employers should look to foster a safe work environment.  Some steps that may be taken in this regard include provision of training for new staff with regard to first aid, and site-specific hazards, including WHMIS. It is also helpful to reinforce training through regular pre-shift safety talks, and recurring staff meetings.

Beyond that, employers and workers can take steps to minimize the risk of workplace injury by establishing protocols for the immediate clean up of spills, providing, and properly using, personal protective equipment, and encouraging micro-breaks during a shift to minimize the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Both staff and owners should also be aware of the requirement that the workplace be free of both violence and harassment, and ensure that a clear policy and process are in place to quickly deal with any issues raised in this regard.

Staff Uniforms/Dress Codes

Many restaurants implement a staff dress code to promote neatness and professionalism, to reinforce their brand, and to make obvious to patrons who is available to serve them.

That said, in implementing a dress code, it is important to ensure that its requirements are lawful, and in particular, it complies with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Human Rights Code. We encourage all employers to work with an employment lawyer in drafting and implementing an enforceable dress code, however, some issues to consider include:

  1. ensuring that the dress code does not force staff to wear sexualized, revealing or gender-stereotypical clothing;
  2. ensuring that the dress code does not place grooming or appearance rules on female staff employees that are ore onerous than for their male counterparts;
  3. ensuring that the dress code allows for a wide range of hairstyles, unless there is a legitimate concern with regard to food preparation and safety; and
  4. ensuring that the dress code does not require staff to wear high-heeled shoes.


If you are a restaurant owner, it is important to be aware of, and to ensure compliance with, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. The Act's requirements vary depending on the size of your operation, with larger businesses required to meet more onerous obligations in this regard.

Generally speaking, however, the Act requires businesses that provide goods and/or services to do so in a way that makes them accessible to all Ontarians. Some steps that employers need to take in meeting this requirement include: training staff to serve customers of all abilities; welcoming service animals and support persons to your business; and providing accessible ways for people to provide feedback. In addition, many businesses, depending on their size, will be required to file an Accessibility Compliance Report.

Additional Resources

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions