The information on this page is about Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Code. For information about federal law under the Canada Labour Code, contact the federal Labour Program.
Most employment laws are made by the federal and provincial governments. Which laws protect you depends on whether your employer is regulated by the provincial government or by the federal government.
Federally regulated employers include banks, inter-provincial transportation and communications, and federal crown corporations. Their employees are protected by federal laws such as the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Most Nova Scotia employers are regulated by provincial laws such as the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
If you are unsure about which level of government regulates your employer, call the Labour Standards Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
What follows are minimum protections only. You may have an agreement with your employer which provides wages and benefits that are more than the minimums. In that case, you are entitled to the amounts or terms agreed to.
The information below does not replace advice from a lawyer. If you have a legal problem you should talk with a lawyer.
Q - What is the general minimum wage in Nova Scotia?
As of April 1, 2016, employers in Nova Scotia must pay inexperienced workers at least $10.20 an hour and experienced workers at least $10.70 an hour. Employees can be paid the inexperienced rate only if they have worked for the employer for less than three months and have less than three months total experience with the kind of work they have been hired to do. An experienced worker is one who has three months' or more experience with the same employer or in the kind of work they have been hired to do. The minimum wage applies to a work week of 48 hours or less.
Some industries have different minimum wage rules, or are exempt from having to pay a minimum wage.
Contact Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Division for more information.
Q - Must male and female workers be paid the same?
Yes. Under the Labour Standards Code men and women are entitled to the same pay for substantially the same type of work within a given workplace. However, the Labour Standards Code says that employees may receive different wages for similar jobs if:
- a seniority or merit pay system is set up
- wages are paid based on quantity or quality of production, or
- a factor other than sex distinguishes one employee from another.
Q - When must an employee be paid?
Your employer must pay you in cash, by cheque or by bank deposit at least twice a month and within five working days after the end of each pay period. Exceptions are if payments are made according to an existing practice in your workplace, such as weekly or monthly payments, or if there is a collective agreement that has a different pay schedule, or an order of the Director of Labour Standards.
When you are paid your employer must give you a written statement (pay stub) detailing
- the pay period
- number of hours the pay is for
- pay rate
- deductions from pay, and
- actual amount paid.
Q - Am I entitled to pay increases at certain intervals?
The Labour Standards Code only has requirements about a minimum wage. It is up to your employer to decide whether there will be pay increases.
Q - Am I entitled to a paid vacation?
You are entitled to two weeks vacation after working 12 months for an employer, and to at least three weeks vacation if you have been working for the same employer for longer than 8 years.
Vacation pay is calculated at 4% of gross wages or 6% of gross wages for employees who have worked for the same employer for longer than 8 years. Gross wages means wages before deductions for tax, CPP, etc.
If you and your employer agree, you may break up your vacation into two or more parts, as long as the required minimum is met and you get at least one week of unbroken vacation.
Employees in certain jobs, such as real estate agents, car salespeople, or people who work on fishing boats, are not covered by the Labour Standards Code rules about vacations and vacation pay. Contact Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Division for more information.
Q - What happens to my vacation pay if I leave my job?
You are still entitled to the vacation pay. Your employer must pay you your earned vacation pay within 10 days after your employment ends.
Q - Do I have to take vacation time?
If you work full time you must take vacation time.
If you work less than 90% of regular working hours during a continuous 12 month period, then you may choose not to take vacation, and just get your vacation pay instead. You must tell your employer in writing that you will not take vacation. Your employer must give you your vacation pay within one month after the 12 month period ends.
Q - Can my employer make deductions from my pay?
Your employer can deduct from your pay if the deductions are allowed or required by:
- court order
- written agreement between you and your employer.
Your employer can make the following deductions, even if the deductions take your pay below minimum wage:
- statutory deductions such as income tax, Employment Insurance (EI) premiums, and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions
- court ordered deductions, such as if your employer is required by the Maintenance Enforcement Program to garnish your pay because you are behind in child support payments
- deductions for an employee benefit or pension plan
- deductions for board and/or lodging provided by the employer, subject to maximum amounts set out in the Minimum Wage Order (General)
- deductions to recover pay advances or overpayments
- deductions for employee purchases from the employer's business on account
- deductions for dry-cleaning wool or other heavy material uniforms.
Some deductions cannot be made without your agreement, and are not allowed if they take your pay below minimum wage. Unless you have agreed, your employer cannot deduct money from your wages to pay for damage you may have caused to the employer's property or goods, debts you owe your employer, losses incurred by you or goods your employer accuses you of stealing. For example, if a customer leaves without paying, your employer can only deduct from your pay to recover that loss if
1) the employer can show that it was your fault; and
2) you agree in writing to the deduction; and
3) the deduction does not take your pay below minimum wage.
You should contact Labour Standards if your employer makes a deduction for losses like these without your agreement, or if you are not sure whether a deduction is lawful.
When you are paid your employer must give you a written statement (pay stub) detailing deductions from your pay, as well as the pay period, number of hours the pay is for, pay rate and actual amount paid.
Contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards for more information about pay deductions.
Q - How much is overtime pay?
For most jobs overtime pay is 1.5 times the employee's regular wage. An employee must work at least 48 hours in one week before overtime rules apply. For example, an employee who worked 50 hours in one week would be paid her regular wage for 48 of those hours, and overtime for the other two hours.
However, overtime rules are not the same for all workers. Some jobs, such as car and real estate sales and farm work, are not covered by overtime rules. Other jobs, such as construction or landscaping, have special overtime rules. Contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards for more information about specific overtime rules.
Q - What holidays will I get?
Under Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Code, you are entitled to 6 paid holidays:
- New Year's Day
- Nova Scotia Heritage Day
- Good Friday
- Canada Day
- Labour Day, and
- Christmas Day.
You should receive your regular rate of pay for each of these days, as long as you:
1. were paid or were entitled to receive pay for at least 15 days of the month before the general holiday; and
2. work on your scheduled work day immediately before and after the holiday, unless your employer tells you not to come to work on either of those days. These rules apply to both full-time and part-time employees.
However, some workers are not entitled to holiday pay unless it is in their employment contract. These include
- most farm workers
- real estate and car salespeople
- anyone who works for 24 hours or less per week
- commissioned salespeople who make sales at locations other than an employer's place of business, except those on an established route
- anyone who works on a fishing boat
- anyone who works in a private home providing domestic service to an immediate family member.
Some days are holidays, but are not paid holidays under the Labour Standards Code. These days include: Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Natal Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Boxing Day. Your employer may choose to pay you for these days.
Contact Labour Standards for more information about holidays.
Other days off and holidays:
Nova Scotia's Remembrance Day Act requires many businesses to close on Remembrance Day (11 November). Some workplaces are allowed to open on Remembrance Day, including hospitals, child care facilities, service stations and drug stores that are not in a department store. Workplaces that do open are required to stop work for 3 minutes starting at 1 minute to 11 a.m. on November 11.
If you do not work on Remembrance Day you are not entitled to get paid for the day, although your employer may nevertheless decide to pay you for that day.
In most cases if you are required to work on Remembrance Day you are entitled to a paid holiday either on the working day immediately following your vacation, or any other day you and your employer agree upon. There are a few exceptions. Contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards for more information about Remembrance Day.
Designated Retail Closing Days
There are 9 designated retail closing days in Nova Scotia:
- New Year's Day
- Nova Scotia Heritage Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Sunday
- Canada Day
- Labour Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day, and
- Boxing Day.
These are days when certain retail businesses must close. Contact Labour Standards for more information about designated closing days under the Retail Business Designated Day Closing Act.
Q - Where can I get more information?
Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Labour Standards Division
Halifax: (902) 424- 4311
Sydney: (902) 563-2180
Toll free: 1-888-315-0110
Employment and Social Development Canada Labour Program (federally regulated workplaces)
Toll free: 1-800-641-4049