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Rights of retail workers

Retail workers face their own challenges at work. Retail workers are covered under the provincial or territorial occupational health and safety acts and as well as other legislation.

Most retail workers are also covered under the employment standards act of their province or territory.

There are exclusions as to who is considered a retail worker. For instance, some who work at a zoo or at a restaurant are excluded from retail worker status. To find out if you are excluded from retail worker status, consult the employment standards act of your province or territory.

British Columbia

In the WorkSafeBC Health and Safety Guide for New Workers, the guide spells out what protections are available to retail workers.

The guide recognized that retail workers deal with the possibility of being injured through things like:

  • Handling bags, boxes, and other objects;
  • Using tools and equipment
  • Slips, trips, and falls

Note: in most other provinces and territories retail workers are also covered under workers compensation boards and have the right to similar protections as well as the right to make a claim if injured on the job, unless they are excluded employees.


Ontario has a specific section on retail workers in their Employment Standards Act, which outlines the right of retail workers to be able to refuse to work on public holidays and Sundays.

However, different rules apply given when the employee was hired. If the employee was hired before September 4, 2001, the employee has the right to refuse work without a written agreement having been made. If the agreement was signed after that date, the employee cannot refuse work on Sundays (if they agreed to this stipulation).

New Brunswick

Ontario isn’t the only province to allow employees to refuse work on Sundays. The Employment Standards Act of New Brunswick also has a section that states that a retail employee may refuse Sunday.

The act also states that an employer cannot “dismiss, suspend, lay off, penalize, discipline or discriminate against an employee because…the employee has refused or attempted to refuse to work on a Sunday”.

To find out whether your province or territory has its own exemption for work on Sundays if you are a retail employee consult the employment standards act of your province or territory.

If you are having issues with health and safety at work or you are having issues in regards to your employment, consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Retail Workers Ministry of Labour

Employment Standards Act New Brunswick