Guide to Employment Standards


The following is intended to give a general understanding of the law.  Anyone wishing to interpret and apply the law must turn to the Labour Standards Act  and Regulations.  If there is a difference between the following text and the Act and Regulations, the Act prevails.

Does the Labour Standards Act Apply to Me?

The Act and Regulations apply to most workers and employers in the Northwest Territories.  The major exceptions are:

  • Federal government employees
  • Territorial government employees
  • Workers in federally-regulated industries such as airlines and banks
  • Trappers or Commercial Fishermen.

If you are not sure, contact Labour Services to find out which laws apply to you.

Hours of Work

Standard work hours are eight hours a day, 40 hours a week.  Overtime is no less than 1.5 times the employee's regular rate of pay.  Overtime is payable when an employee works more than the standard work hours.  The method of payment when you are paid on a basis other than time is different. Please contact us for more information. A permit is required from the Labour Standards Officer if an employer wants his or her employees to work irregular hours on a frequent basis and not pay overtime.  The hours of work may then be averaged, meaning the employee may receive less overtime and the employer's costs could be lowered.

Employees are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day of 60 hours a week without a permit unless:

  • There has been an accident involving machinery, equipment, plant or people;
  • Urgent and essential work needs to be done to machinery, equipment or the plant;
  • Or there are unforeseen or non-preventable circumstances.

The above exceptions are allowed only if the extra hours are necessary to prevent serious interference with the operation of the workplace.

If you are employed primarily in a management capacity, these hours of work DO NOT apply.  Contact Labour Services for further information.

Hours of Rest

An employer must provide at least one day of rest in each week for his or her employees.  Whenever possible, that day is to be Sunday.  Employees must receive a half-hour unpaid meal break, free from work, after every five consecutive hours of work.  In some jobs, it is not practical to give such breaks. In these cases, the employer must apply to the Labour Standards Officer for a waiver.

Minimum Wages

Effective December 28, 2003 the minimum wage in the NWT is $8.25 per hour.  This new minimum wage will be the same for employees regardless of their age or location of work. Previously, the minimum wage was different for youth under 16 years of age and for employees in off-road communities.

Employing Young People

Young people, those aged 16 and under, are not allowed to work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless the employer has received written permission from the Labour Standards Officer.

Employers must be prepared, at any time, to prove to the Labour Standards Officer that work done by the young person is not likely to harm his or her health, education or moral character.  Employers who want to hire a young person to work in the construction industry must first obtain a permit from the Labour Standards Officer.


If an employer calls an employee back to work, and the recall was not scheduled in advance, the employee is entitled to a minimum payment equal to fours hours at his or her regular rate for reporting to work.  This applies even if no work is done.

For example, if an employee leaves work, goes home expecting to have the evening free and is then telephoned at home by his employer and told to report to work immediately, this is an unscheduled recall.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave

An employee must be employed by the same employer for at least 12 continuous months to be eligible for unpaid pregnancy or parental leave.  An eligible employee must give his or her employer a written request for leave, four weeks before the leave begins.  An employee is entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks of combined pregnancy and parental leave.  For example, is a women takes 17 weeks pregnancy leave, she can take 35 weeks parental leave.  Fathers and adoptive parents are entitled to 37 weeks of parental leave.  The employee can not be discriminated against because of the pregnancy, leave taken, or requested leave.

A woman who has not worked long enough to qualify for pregnancy leave must be given enough unpaid time off to satisfy her physical needs caused by the pregnancy and birth.

Vacations and Vacation Pay

The Labour Standards Act provides for two weeks vacation with pay for each completed year of employment.  Once an employee has worked six years, he or she is then entitled to three weeks vacation.  Vacation pay accumulates at the rate of 4% of the employee's gross earnings, including overtime, during the first five years of employment with the same employer, and a rate of 6% after that.  When an employee quits, is laid off or fired, he or she is entitled to receive whatever vacation pay has accumulated but has not already been paid.  All employees are entitled to be paid vacation pay, regardless of length of employment.

General Holidays

The Labour Standards Act establishes ten general holidays in the Northwest Territories. They are:

  • New Year's Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • National Aboriginal Day
  • Canada Day
  • First Monday in August
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day

The Act sets out conditions an employee must meet to be eligible to receive general holiday pay.  An employee must have worked for that employer on 30 work days in the 12 months prior to the general holiday; have reported to work on the general holiday if called to work; have reported to work on both the last scheduled work day before the general holiday and the next regular scheduled day following the holiday; and not be on pregnancy or parental leave.  Generally, if an employee meets the conditions and does not work on the general holiday, he or she is entitled to a regular day's pay.  If the employee meets the conditions summarized above and works the general holiday, he or she is entitled to either another day off work with pay, or a normal day's pay plus 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for the time worked on the general holiday.

If the employee meets the conditions and the general holiday occurs on what would be a non-working day, and the employee does not work, then he or she must be paid a normal day's pay or as an alternative, the holiday may be transferred to another day. For example, where New Year's Day occurs on a Sunday (a non-working day for the employee) the employer may transfer the holiday to Monday or to another day, and give the employee the day off with a normal day's pay.

Where a week contains a general holiday, and an employee meets the conditions entitling him or her to general holiday pay, the pay is computed in a different manner for that week.  The general holiday is taken out of the week and the pay for that day is treated separately.  Overtime is calculated and paid for the rest of the week for all the time worked in excess of eight hours per day and 32 hours in that week.

If you are paid on a basis other than time, your payment for general holiday pay is different. Please contact us for more information.

Rules For Ending Employment

Notice or Pay Instead of Notice
Employees who have worked for one employer for 90 days or more are entitled to either two weeks notice of termination of employment, or pay instead of notice.  The 90 day period my be made up of several shorter periods totaling 90 days, if the time between the periods of work is brief.  Workers who have been with the same employer three years or more must receive one week of notice for every year of employment, up to a maximum of eight weeks.

Exemptions to Notice Requirements
Notice, or pay instead of notice, is not required for seasonal, employees who work less than 25 hours per week, or construction workers.  Workers let go for just cause, and staff laid off temporarily, are not entitled to these benefits.  Similarly, workers in term positions not exceeding 365 days do not have to receive a notice or pay instead of notice when their term ends.






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