If you will be employed during your time as a student, it is important to know your rights. The following section is meant to provide you with a quick reference guide to workers rights in Nova Scotia.

Minimum Wage

Your employer must meet the minimum wage requirement no matter how you are paid-whether it’s hourly, salary, a flat rate, commission or incentive pay. The current minimum wage requirement is $10.30 per hour.

An employer may pay an inexperienced employee $9.80 per hour. The government defines an “inexperienced employee” as “an employee who has not been employed by his or her present or other employer for a total period of three calendar months to do the work for which the employee is employed, but it does not include a person in the employ of an employer for whom he or she has completed three calendar months of employment.”

Tips or gratuities are not considered wages – A restaurant server, for example, must be paid at least the minimum wage before tips. If you are earning minimum wage, and you are required to wear a uniform, you cannot be charged for its value or laundering, but you can be charged the cost of dry cleaning.

Minimum Daily Pay

If you are called in to work without prior notice, you are entitled to three hours’ pay, even if you work for less than three hours. This does not apply to scheduled work, if you are scheduled to work for one hour you are only entitled to one hour’s pay.

Overtime

The standard for overtime in Nova Scotia is “time-and-a-half” for hours in excess of 48 hours per week.

Sundays

As of October 1, 2006, the law of Nova Scotia preventing certain businesses from opening on Sunday was declared invalid. As a result, employers may open their businesses on Sundays. If, however, you have a religious conviction that prevents you from attending work on a certain day of the week, your employer has an obligation to do his or her best to accommodate you under human rights legislation.

Statutory Holidays

In Nova Scotia, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Christmas Day, and Labour Day are statutory holidays. This means that if you are an hourly employee who is asked to work on any of these days, you are entitled to the overtime rate as long as you have worked for fifteen of the last thirty calendar days prior to the holiday, and you have shown up for work on the shifts you have been scheduled for surrounding that holiday. If you meet those two requirements and receive the day off, you are entitled to holiday pay based on your average shift length during the last thirty days.

Pregnancy Leave

If an employee becomes pregnant, and has been employed for at least one year, then that employee is entitled to 17 weeks of unpaid leave.

Parental Leave

If an employee becomes a parent (including adoption), and has been employed for at least a year, then that employee is entitled to 52 weeks unpaid leave.

Bereavement Leave

All employees are entitled to three days leave if a spouse, parent, guardian, or child dies. All employees are entitled to one day of leave if a grandparent, grandchild, sister, brother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law dies.

Jury Leave

If an employee is called for jury duty, they are entitled to leave until the trial is over.

Annual Vacations

The Labour Standards Act details minimum vacation entitlements for workers in Nova Scotia. After one year of consecutive employment, a worker is entitled to two weeks of unpaid vacation. In addition, employers are required to pay the equivalent of at least 4% of a worker’s total earnings from the previous year as vacation pay. If a worker has not worked for a full year, and her work is terminated, then she is entitled to vacation pay within ten days of being terminated (in the amount of 4% of the total earnings).

Paydays and Payroll Records

Workers must be paid at least twice a month. An employer cannot withhold pay longer than five days after the end of a pay period. Employers must provide a written record with each pay cheque, itemizing the hours worked and the rates of pay. Employers must also keep those employment records for at least twelve months. If you believe your employer has violated these minimum standards, phone the Labour Standards Division 1-888-315-0110.

Termination

If you have worked for an employer for three months, you are entitled to one week’s notice in writing unless you have committed “willful misconduct, disobedience, or neglect of duty.” If, under these circumstances, your employer is required to give you notice your employer might elect to simply pay you for the final week instead of having you work during that time. If you have worked for your employer for more than two years, they are required to give two weeks notice. If you have worked for your employer for more than five years, they are required to give four weeks notice.

Your Right to Unionize

Why Join A Union?

More and more, students have jobs while going to school. Typically, these jobs are low paying and often involve shift work and little protection of your rights. Just as students need a students’ union to support and defend education, working students need unions to protect their rights and work for better working conditions. The evidence shows that most people are better off in a union. The minimum wage is just that – a minimum. Unions try to do better, to improve the standard of living of their members. It also pays off in other ways. Unionized workplaces have fewer health and safety problems, and will help you if you need to make a Workers’ Compensation claim. Unions also work to protect people from harassment in the workplace.

The Nova Scotia Trade Union Act protects your right to join and to organize a union. If you are harassed or intimidated because you support a union, call the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board right away. If you work for the federal government or in certain federally regulated areas your rights are protected by the Canada Labour Code. When workers want to join a union, bosses will sometimes try to intimidate them. You don’t have to put up with it. Employers are also not allowed to try to interfere in the union. Know your rights.

A union has to sign up a minimum 40 per cent of the people in the workplace to apply for certification, the right to be officially recognized as the union for that group of workers. It’s a good idea to be in touch with a union before trying to sign people up.

After all the membership cards are signed, the Labour Relations Board will review the application to ensure that it meets government requirements and that the union is able to represent its new members. A vote is then held to see if the workers wish to join the union.

It is your legal right to join and to support the union.

Bargaining

Once you have a union, your union will attempt to negotiate a first contract with the employer. This is an agreement between the union and the employer that usually covers things like how much people will be paid, safety in the workplace, preventing harassment, and other protections for union members. Both the union and employer have an obligation to bargain in good faith, that is, to make an honest effort to come to a negotiated agreement. If the negotiations fail, it could lead to the involvement of a mediator or arbitrator, the company locking out its workers, or to the workers going out on strike to press for their demands.