Nova Scotia Labour Standards

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards legislation sets out the minimum employment rules in Nova Scotia that employers and employees must  follow.  It also sets out rules specific to the recruitment of workers and hiring foreign workers. Employees, employers and recruiters have rights and responsibilities under these rules. A person who believes the rules have been broken can file a complaint with the Labour Standards Division.

Employment Status

It is important to note that there must be an employer/employee relationship in place for the benefits outlined in the Labour Standards Code to apply. Many work arrangements today are less formal than the traditional employer/employee relationship and in some cases, individuals working for an employer may be self-employed. View the first document below to find out more about self-employed or independent contractors.

Some parts of the Code apply to unionized workers, other parts do not apply. In most cases, individuals are advised to refer to their collective agreement to get a better understanding of their rights and the process available tosecure these rights.

Pay and Wages

Employers and employees sometimes disagree about the amount of pay / wages that is owed, or when the money is due. The pay may be related to holidays, minimum wage, overtime, or pay being deducted or withheld for various reasons. Employees often look to the Labour Standards rules  to determine their rights, and when necessary, to have these rights enforced.

Minimum wage

As of April 1, 2021, the minimum wage rate employers must pay employees in Nova Scotia is $12.95 per hour.

Overtime Pay

The general rule for overtime is that employees are entitled to receive one and a half  times their regular wage for each hour worked after 48 in a week. A week is defined as a consistent seven-day period, e.g., Monday to Sunday, Wednesday to Tuesday. For example, if an employee makes $14.00 per hour, that employee would make $21.00 per hour for every hour worked over 48 hours.

Breaks and rest periods

The Labour Standards Code says  that under normal circumstances employers must give employees a minimum rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours in every seven days.

Vacation Time & Vacation Pay

Employers must give employees vacation time of two weeks after each period of 12 months of work, and must give the vacation time within 10 months following the 12-month earning period. Once an employee has completed eight years of service, the employee must receive three weeks’ vacation time.

Leaves from Work

Employees may be eligible for a variety of leaves under the Labour Standards Code. These leaves recognize that events in personal lives can sometimes interrupt work. On these occasions, some level of accommodation from the employer is necessary.

The leaves of absence are pregnancy and parental, reservist, compassionate care, critically ill child care, critically ill adult care, domestic violence, crime-related death or disappearance, emergency, sick, bereavement, court and citizenship ceremony.

Most of these leaves are unpaid leaves of absence, meaning that the employer does not have to pay the employee during these absences. Employment Insurance benefits may be available for some of these leaves. In the case of domestic violence leave, employees are entitled to receive pay for part of the leave.

Employment of Children

The Labour Standards Code has rules about when children may be employed in Nova Scotia. The laws about the employment of children do not apply to people who are 16 years or older.  

The law generally divides children into two groups: those under the age of 14 and those under the age of 16.

Ending Employment

Once an employee has been employed for three (3) months, both the employee and the employer have to give notice before ending the employment relationship. The amount of notice – ranging from one (1) week to sixteen (16) weeks – depends on the length of time the employee has been with the employer, or how many employees are being terminated or laid off. Special rules may apply for tenured employees, those who have been employed 10 years or more.

Industry Exemptions

Some types of work are significantly different in nature, and in some of these cases, the usual rules of the Code may not be appropriate. For example, the Code recognizes that sometimes logging and forestry workers may agree to be paid by the cord instead of minimum wage, so the Minimum Wage Order Logging and Forestry Operations allows for this type of payment.

Other types of work may require different rules that benefit both employees and employers. See the list below for the special rules that apply for some types of work.

Complaint Process

If you have a complaint, it must be filed with the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Division within six months of a violation of the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code taking place  to have the complaint addressed.

If you feel you have a Labour Standards complaint, contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards by phone or email, or visit a Nova Scotia Labour Standards office.  Officers will discuss your concern with you and let you know if your complaint  can be addressed  under the  legislation.  Complaint forms can be sent to you by an officer  by mail, fax or email, or you can pick one up from a Labour Standards office.

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Last Modified: July 19, 2021