Employment law deals with the relationship between employers and their employees. Employment law includes statutes, workplace contracts or policies, and common law (court cases).
Labour standards laws set minimum standards for employment, such as hours of work, minimum wage, overtime pay, vacation and holiday pay, severance pay and employment of youth. They also provide a way for employees to recover wages owed and to make complaints about employment practices. Most workplaces are provincially regulated, which means a law called the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code applies to them. Some workplaces are federally regulated, in those workplaces a law called the Canada Labour Code applies. These federal and provincial labour codes apply to full-time, part-time, and casual employees.
Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Division, Department of Labour and Advanced Education, enforces the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code. The federal government's Labour Program, Employment and Social Development Canada, enforces the Canada Labour Code.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act and Canadian Human Rights Act provide protection against job-related discrimination. They are enforced by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission respectively.
There are also laws that set out rules for health and safety in the workplace. Contact Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety for more information, or call 1-800 952-2687 or 902-424-5400.
Your employment contract or collective agreement may provide additional terms or benefits, and your employer may have a personnel policy that deals with other terms of employment.
Finally, the common law applies to all non-unionized employees and, in some cases, may provide greater protection than the statutory labour codes. Common law, also called case law, includes rules made by judges before there were statutes, and court rulings by judges about what the statutes mean.
What employers do federal and provincial employment laws cover?
Provincial laws such as the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act regulate most businesses and service providers in Nova Scotia.
Federal laws, such as the Canada Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act, cover federally regulated employers such as banks, inter-provincial trucking and rail transport, airlines, broadcasting and Crown corporations.
Does Nova Scotia's Labour Standards Code (LSC) apply to all workers?
No. For example, the Labour Standards Code does not apply:
- To people who work in federally regulated industries
- To domestic workers who work less than 24 hours per week or work looking after a family member
- To independent contractors. It is not always easy to decide if you are an independent contractor. Nova Scotia Labour Standards has information that may help you to determine whether you are an independent contractor. If you are in doubt, contact a lawyer or the Labour Standards Division
- Only some parts of the LSC apply to unionized workers, and to managers and professionals such as architects, doctors, dentists, lawyers, and engineers. Unionized employees are mainly governed by their collective agreement, while managers and professionals are mainly governed by professional associations and industry-specific legislation
- There are many other types of work where only some of the LSC's provisions apply, including, but not limited to, farm and summer camp workers, employees on fishing boats and people participating in government training programs.
If you are not sure which laws apply to your work, call the Labour Standards Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, or the federal Labour Program, Employment and Social Development Canada, or contact a lawyer.
If you are a unionized employee, contact your union for information about your collective agreement and labour law.
How do I contact Nova Scotia Labour Standards?
Phone: 1 888 315-0110 (toll free) or (902) 424-4311 (Halifax)
How do I contact Canada's federal Labour Program?
How do I contact Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety?
Phone: 1-800-952-2687 or (902) 424-5400
Last reviewed: December 2022