Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code: A Brief Overview for Employers

  • Labour Standards
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code (LSC) is a legislation used to regulate employment in the province. It contains the minimum entitlements that all provincially regulated employees must receive, such as minimum wage, work hours, overtime, leaves of absence, and termination notice and pay. It also outlines the legal obligations and rights of employers and employees.

Though employers are free to provide more benefits and wages to employees if they wish to, they cannot offer less than the minimum standards set down in the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code.

What are some major areas of employment covered under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code?

Some important areas covered by Nova Scotia’s Labour Standards Code include:

Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $14.50 per hour. The province will increase the general minimum wage rate to $15.00 on October 1, 2023.

General Holidays

 Nova Scotia has 6 general or statutory holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Nova Scotia Heritage Day
  • Good Friday
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Remembrance Day*
  • Christmas Day

*Remembrance Day is not considered a paid general holiday under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code. There is a separate law that covers Remembrance Day entitled the Remembrance Day Act. It states rules prohibiting many businesses from operating on November 11 and rules about holiday pay for employees who work on that day.

If an employee qualifies for general holiday pay and is given the day off, the employer must pay a regular day’s pay for that holiday. If the employee’s hours of work change from day to day, or if their wages change from pay to pay, the employer should average the hours or wages over the 30-day period immediately before the holiday to calculate what to pay the employee for the holiday.


Like many other jurisdictions, overtime in Nova Scotia is paid at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage. The weekly threshold for overtime pay is 48 hours; there is no daily overtime threshold.

It is important to note that even if an employer pays overtime, employees are entitled to a rest period of no less than 24 consecutive hours every seven days. But if there is an emergency situation, an employer can request more than six days of work in a row if there has been an accident to avoid serious interference with workplace operations.

Some groups of employees have special rules to deal with overtime, called wage orders. The jobs covered by the “Minimum Wage Order (General)” include oil and gas employees, managers and supervisors, transport employees, and more. Employees covered under this particular wage order receive overtime at 1.5 times the minimum wage rate after 48 hours worked in a week.

There is another wage order entitled the “Minimum Wage Order (Construction and Property Maintenance)” which applies to construction employees, water and sewer installers, landscapers, and snow removal employees, and more. The groups covered under this wage order receive 1.5 times their regular wage after 110 hours worked over a two-week period.

How many breaks can an employee take during an 8-hour shift in Nova Scotia?

Under section 66B of the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code, employees are entitled to a 30-minute rest or eating break if their shift is longer than five consecutive hours.

Vacation Time and Pay

In Nova Scotia, employees are eligible for vacation time once they have completed one year of employment. Once an employee becomes eligible for vacation time, they are entitled to two weeks each year for the first eight years of employment. In their ninth consecutive year of employment, employees are entitled to three weeks of vacation time.

Vacation pay in Nova Scotia is calculated based on the employee’s gross earnings in the previous year. During the first seven years of employment, vacation is paid at 4%; at the start of an employee’s eighth year of service, vacation is paid at 6%.

Employers can choose to pay vacation pay by paying it out to employees at least one day before they take their vacation time, adding the vacation pay to each pay cheque, or including the vacation pay in with the employee’s hourly rate (in this case, the employer must ensure the employee’s rate of pay is at least the minimum wage plus 4% or 6%, depending on the employee’s tenure).

Job-Protected Leaves of Absence

There are 13 leaves employees in Nova Scotia may utilize without fear of losing their job. These leaves are:

  • Pregnancy Leave
  • Parental Leave
  • Reservist Leave
  • Compassionate Care Leave
  • Critically Ill Child Care Leave
  • Critically Ill Adult Care Leave
  • Domestic Violence Leave
  • Crime-Related Child Death or Disappearance Leave
  • Emergency Leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Court Leave
  • Citizenship Ceremony Leave

All employees are eligible to take a leave if they meet the qualifying period of employment for the leave (the qualifying periods range from 0 days to three months of employment).

Employers are generally not required to pay wages to employees while on the above-mentioned leaves. For all leaves, Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code only requires employers to provide the time off and allow employees to return to their job when the leave has ended. The only exception under the LSC where an employer is required to pay a portion of a leave is under the Domestic Violence Leave.

Temporary Layoffs

Under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code, employers must give notice in writing (or pay in-lieu thereof) to an employee if they are terminating, suspending, or laying that employee off temporarily. The amount of temporary layoff notice employees are eligible for depends on their years of service with the employer and is the same as the termination notice requirements.

It is important to note that, in Nova Scotia, there are special termination/lay off rules for employees with 10 years of service or more. While these employees can only be terminated in very limited circumstances, they can be laid off with eight weeks’ notice as per the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code for shortage of work or due to the employee’s position being eliminated.

What are the rules on termination of employment in Nova Scotia?

Termination of employment in Nova Scotia is similar to other jurisdictions (with the exception of the rule for long-tenured staff). If an employee is being terminated on a without-cause basis, they are entitled to a notice period or termination pay in-lieu of notice.

Notice Requirements for Layoffs and Terminations

The required notice period for termination or layoff is usually determined by an employee’s length of service with a company. Here is a breakdown of when you should provide notice to an employee:

  • At least three months but less than two years - One week.
  • At least two years but less than five years - Two weeks.
  • At least five years but less than 10 years - Four weeks.
  • 10 years or more - Eight weeks* .

*An employee with 10 years of service or more cannot be terminated or suspended without good reason or just cause. What is considered ‘good reason’ will depend on the employee’s and employer’s specific circumstances. In general, employers must prove they have taken the following actions first before terminating the employee:

  1. The employer has made their expectations clear to the employee.
  2. The employer has warned the employee to change their behaviour.
  3. The employer has given the employee a reasonable chance to change their behaviour.
  4. The employer has warned the employee that not improving their behaviour could lead to termination of employment.

Employers are not required to give notice or pay in-lieu of notice that the employee will be laid off or terminated when:

  • An employee works for the employer for less than three months;
  • An employee is being terminated for just cause;
  • An employee works for the employer for a set term no longer than 12 months and the employee’s job ends when the set term ends;
  • There is a sudden and unexpected lack of work that the employer could not avoid;
  • An employee is laid off or suspended for six days or less – note that employees with 10 or more years of service cannot be suspended without just cause; and,
  • An employee resigns (note that for a resignation, employees with more than three months but less than two years of employment must provide the employer with one weeks’ notice. Employees with two years of service or more must provide the employer with two weeks’ notice).

Employees who do not have an employment contract – or employees who have an employment contract that does not contain a valid termination clause – are entitled to reasonable notice of termination at common law.

Do employees have to provide two weeks’ notice when resigning in Nova Scotia?

The length of employee notice depends on how long they have worked for the same employer. Under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code, an employee must give one week’s written notice if they have a period of employment three months or more but less than two years. The length of notice required changes to two weeks if the period of employment is two years or more.

Do you need help staying compliant with the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code?

Our experts can help you develop company policies and assist you with any HR, health & safety, and employee management services you may need. We also offer free 24/7 employer HR advice and capable of providing legal assistance in case of disputes. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

This article provides a brief overview of the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code. It is not a legal document. For more details, please refer to the LSC.

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