Employment law deals with both the employer's and the employee's actions, rights and responsibilities, as well as their relationship with one another. Discrimination, workplace safety and standards, and workers' compensation fall under employment law. Likewise, employee benefits, retirement and pensions, compensation and much more, are part of this broad legal area.
Why should you care about employment law?
As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure your employees' rights under employment law are protected. It's also up to business leaders and managers to create a healthy work culture that encourages communication, ideas, growth, and work-life balance. Following employment law is a minimum requirement for cultivating an environment that fulfills, motivates, and inspires employees each and every day.
If that's not reason enough, not knowing your legal obligations as an employer can cost you in other ways. The following facts speak for themselves:
- Hundreds of employment lawsuits are filed every day.
- The hourly rate for a lawyer to defend a lawsuit varies from $200.00 for a junior lawyer to $600.00 for senior counsel.
- The vast majority of employment lawsuits are won by the plaintiff.
- One in five employment law jury verdicts is for over a million-dollars
- If you’re audited or a complaint is filed against you under the NS Labour Standards Code, pay may be ordered dating back a number of months (such as for unpaid vacation pay). In the case of an audit, pay could be ordered for a number of employees.
This section provides the information you need to fulfill the rights of your employees and protect your business.
In This Section:
Which Laws Apply?
Federal and Provincial Legislation
ARE YOU COVERED BY FEDERAL OR PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION?
If your company falls into one of the following sectors, you are most likely to be a federally regulated employer:
- Chartered banks
- Marine shipping, ferry and port services
- Transportation across provincial borders
- Telephone, telegraph, and cable systems
- Radio and television broadcasting
- Uranium mining and processing
- Businesses dealing with protection of fisheries as a natural resource
- First Nation activities
- Federal Crown corporations
All other employers are provincially regulated.
The pages which follow in this section provide basic information and links on laws and regulations as they relate to doing business in Nova Scotia:
- Labour Standards Code
- Labour Relations Board
- Human Rights
- Health and Safety
- Workers Compensation
Links to Legislation
Follow the links below to the legislation that applies to you.
|Area of Regulation||Legislation applicable to provincially regulated employers||Legislation applicable to federally regulated employers|
Employment legislation for workers
Also see the Guide to the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code
|Canada Labour Code|
Employment legislation for unionized workers
Human Rights Legislation
Occupational Health and Safety Legislation
|Occupational Health and Safety Act|
|Privacy Laws in Canada|
|Jury Duty in Nova Scotia|
Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code
The NS Labour Standards legislation sets out the minimum employment rules in Nova Scotia that employers and employees have to follow. It also sets out rules specific to the recruitment of workers and the hiring of foreign workers.
These rules include minimum standards for wages, deductions from pay, vacation pay, overtime pay, holidays with pay, leaves, ending employment, and other things. It is not legal for employers and employees to agree to terms, conditions, and benefits that offer less than the legislation offers. However, employers can give their employees greater benefits than those set out in the legislation.
There are exemptions for certain kinds of work (exempting those individuals from the entire Code or certain provisions of the Code).
For more information, check out the Guide to the Labour Standards Code of Nova Scotia.
For guidance on the requirements for your specific industry or situation, you are encouraged to contact the Labour Standards Division.
In addition, people might have recourse through the courts to deal with workplace issues. For example, an employee might file a court claim against his employer seeking damages for wrongful dismissal. Or, an employer might file a court claim against her employee to recover a debt the employee owes the employer. For more information about pursuing a claim through the courts, you may want to speak to a lawyer. There is information about the NS Courts here.
On December 10, 2010, the Labour Board Act received Royal Assent. The innovations introduced by the Labour Board Act will help to ensure stability and fairness in our workplaces. The Board will provide employers, employees, and unions a single point to access employment justice. The board also hears complaints of failure to comply with the Labour Standards Code
Information about the Labour Board and Bringing Matters Before the Labour Board can be found on the Government of Nova Scotia website.
The Act is available at http://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/61st_2nd/3rd_read/b100.htm
If you have questions about the Labour Board and the Labour Board Act you may telephone the Board at (902) 424-6730 or Toll Free: -1-877-424-6730 or you may contact a Labour and Employment Lawyer in your region.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act applies to private businesses as well as to the provincial government, and all of its departments and agencies.
However, when Nova Scotians do business with the Government of Canada, or with a business regulated by the federal government, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act does not apply. Instead, there is a Canadian law called the Canadian Human Rights Act applies.
This Nova Scotia Human Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination under the following characteristics:
- Ethnic, national or aboriginal origin
- Sex (including pregnancy)
- Sexual orientation
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Family status
- Marital status
- Source of income
- Irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease
- Association with protected groups or individuals
- Political belief, affiliation or activity
The Act also prohibits harassment based on any of these characteristics, and prohibits sexual harassment in all areas of public life.
The Act prohibits discrimination in a number of areas, including employment. For example, in refusing to hire, continue to employ or promote a person, in the posting of job advertisements, or the criteria used for hiring. It also prohibits harassment of individuals based on one of the thirteen prohibited groups.
The Act also:
- protects equal pay for the same or similar work performed by males and females,
- prohibits individuals who are in a position to grant or deny a benefit or advancement to another from engaging in unwelcome sexual solicitation with the person who is seeking or receiving the benefit, and
- protects individuals who have made complaints under the Act or who have assisted with the complaint process from retaliation.
Click here for more information about the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
For information about the federal Canadian Human Rights Act, visit the Canadian Human Rights Commission at www.chrc-ccdp.ca. If you are not sure which law applies, call the Canadian Human Rights Commission at 1-877-269-7699. In the Halifax area, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission can be reached at 902-424-4111.
Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health and Safety: Occupational Health and Safety Legislation
Health and safety in the workplace is protected by Nova Scotia's Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. All employers in Nova Scotia have a general duty to do all that is reasonable and practical to ensure the safety of workers and others who are present in the workplace.
For help in understanding your Health and Safety requirements contact the divisional office in Halifax at 902-424-5400 (Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. only), Toll-free: 1-800-952-2687 (24 hours), or by E-mail:
You can also contact a staff member located outside of Halifax. Contact information for the regional offices can be found on https://novascotia.ca/lae/ohs/region.asp
For quick reference access the Small Business Safety Toolkit. The kit provides easy-to-use, step-by-step guidelines and sample forms to identify hazards and develop a safety plan to keep everyone safe on the job.
Click here for the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations.
Looking for quick information business owners need to know about workplace safety? CLICK HERE
Workers Compensation Board
The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) sets the standard for workplace injury insurance. They provide workplace injury insurance for more than 18,000 employers, representing about 300,000 workers across Nova Scotia.
The WCB works to inform and inspire Nova Scotians in the prevention of workplace injury. The Board also supports those whose lives are touched by workplace injury in the event it occurs and champions a timely return to safe and healthy work.
The Workers Compensation Act provides the legal framework for the administration of the WCB's prevention, return to work, assessment, and compensation programs.
Workers compensation legislation is complimented by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Health and safety standards are administered by the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.