Interpretation Guidelines Manual British Columbia Employment Standards Act and Regulations


ESA Section 1 – Definitions – Employer


Text of Legislation
Policy Interpretation
Related Information


This section contains definitions for terms used throughout the Employment Standards Act and its Regulation.

Text of Legislation

"employer" includes a person

(a) who has or had control or direction of an employee, or

(b) who is or was responsible, directly or indirectly, for the employment of an employee;

Policy Interpretation

Refer to definition of “employee” under this section for information on how to distinguish an employer/employee relationship from one involving an independent contractor.

Where a definition relies on the wording “includes”, it is considered to be an inclusive definition and should be given broad and liberal interpretation. The Employment Standards Act relies upon, but is not restricted to, common law definitions.

Subsection (a)

A person who has, or had control of an employee is considered to be the “employer” and liable for unpaid wages.

Subsection (b)

An employer is a person who is, or was, responsible, whether directly or indirectly, for the employment of an employee.

In determining who the proper employer is, for purpose of the Act, or if both business entities are employers the employment relationship will be scrutinized to determine:

  • how did the employee learn of the employment opportunity (i.e., advertising, etc.)
  • was there a contract of employment; who were the parties
  • who paid the employee (name on paycheque)
  • who was responsible for everyday direction and control (i.e., discipline, salary adjustments, assigning job responsibilities)
  • was an ROE issued
  • who supplied equipment/supplies to perform employment tasks

Related Information

Employment Standards Tribunal Decisions

Strataco Management Ltd.

Related sections of the Act or Regulation


Other references

See Employment Standards Factsheets


Employee or Independent Contractor?