Vacation Pay and Statutory Holiday Pay in Nova Scotia

An important aspect of any person’s life is how much time off from work they can enjoy. Employees in Nova Scotia are entitled, at a minimum, to certain vacation benefits, which include vacation time, vacation pay, and statutory holiday pay. These minimum benefits are governed by the Labour Standards Code (the “Code”) for most employers in the province.

Vacation time

Under the Code, employers in Nova Scotia must provide at least two weeks of vacation to employees who have worked for them for 12 months or more. The vacation time must be given within 10 months following each 12-month earning period.  In their ninth year of service with the employer, the employee becomes entitled to at least three weeks’ vacation time per year.  

While many employers let their employees choose when to take their vacation time, the employer has the final say on when it can be taken. Employers must, however, ensure that all full-time employees actually take this time off, and employers can be penalized if their employees fail to do so. Employees who work less than full time may choose simply to collect their vacation pay instead of taking the time off. 

When an employer has a vacation policy or has agreed to provide a greater benefit to employees than the minimum requirements under the Code, the employer must ensure that it complies with that policy or agreement.

Vacation pay

An employee earns (or ‘accrues’) their vacation pay during the first 12 months of work for an employer and every 12 months after that. All employees are entitled to vacation pay, whether full-time, part-time or casual. Employers must pay employees vacation pay of at least 4 percent of their gross wages . Vacation pay increases to 6 percent of gross wages at the beginning of an employee’s eighth year of service.

There are a few ways in which an employer can pay the vacation to its employees, and it must make it clear to each employee how it is being paid. If an employee’s job ends and the employee has accumulated vacation pay, the employer must pay out any unused vacation pay within 10 days.

It is important that employers keep good records. If there is a dispute and the employer cannot show that vacation pay was paid, the employer will normally have to pay the vacation pay. 

Also note that some types of employees are not entitled to vacation pay, including certain salespeople and domestic workers. The Labour Standards Code has more information on vacation time and vacation pay in Nova Scotia.

Holiday pay

In addition to vacation time, Nova Scotia employees are entitled at a minimum to take each of the province’s six statutory holidays off work with pay: New Year’s Day, Nova Scotia Heritage Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Christmas Day.

To qualify for holiday pay, the employee must (1) be entitled to receive pay for at least 15 of the 30 calendar days before the holiday, and (2) have worked on their last scheduled shift or day before the holiday and on the first scheduled shift or day after the holiday. 

If an employee qualifies for the holiday and is given the day off, the employer must pay the employee a regular (or average) day’s pay for that holiday. If the employee qualifies for the holiday and the holiday falls on their regular day off, the employer must give them a different day off with pay.

If an employee works on the holiday and qualifies for holiday pay, he or she is entitled to receive both a regular day’s pay and one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of wages for the number of hours worked on that holiday.

Note that the holiday rules apply differently to an employer who is a “continuous operation”, including trucking and telecommunications services. Also note that some employees are not entitled to holiday pay under the Code, including unionized employees and certain salespeople and domestic workers. Holiday pay entitlements in Nova Scotia

Lastly, in Nova Scotia, Remembrance Day is not a holiday under the Code. Rather, it has its own special legislation, the Remembrance Day Act, which prohibits many businesses from operating on November 11 and contains its own rules on holiday pay for employees who do have to work on that day.

If you have any questions about your vacation and holiday entitlements, either during your work or after termination, contact our employment lawyers to discuss your situation. Likewise, if you are an employer and would like to understand your obligations, contact us for a consultation.

The above is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice — contact a lawyer to discuss your personal circumstances and learn your options.

About the Author

This article was written by Daniel Wilband, one of our employment lawyers. To learn more about Daniel, please visit our about us page. To learn more about our services in employment law, please visit our employment law page.

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