Employment Standards

The Employment Standards Office serves the needs of both employers and employees by providing information and education on the rights of employees and the responsibilities of employers under the jurisdiction of the Employment Standards Act

The Employment Standards Act and Employment Standards Regulations are the basic legal authority in the NWT which sets out minimum employment standards and provides for the enforcement of these laws by the Employment Standards staff.

The Employment Standards Act applies to most employees and employers that perform work in the Northwest Territories and sets out the minimum employment standards for the NWT.  

The Employment Standards Act does not apply to:

  • Federal Government Employees
  • Territorial Government Employees
  • Workers in federally regulated industries such as airlines, banks, and most telecommunications operations.

 

*New* - Amendments to the NWT Employment Standards Act and Regulations that provide new and enhanced types of employment leave took effect on January 1, 2020.



Parental Leave is extended from 37 weeks of unpaid leave to up to 61 weeks, taken immediately following pregnancy leave.  Two-parent families, including adoptive parents, are also able to access an additional 8 weeks of unpaid leave for the second parent.

Compassionate Care Leave is extended from 8 to 27 weeks each year to allow workers time to provide end-of-life care for a family member who is gravely ill or at risk of death.

A new Family Caregiver Leave provides up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible persons to provide care or support for an adult family member who is critically ill or injured, and up to 37 weeks for a child family member. A fact sheet with more detailed information can be found here.

A new Family Violence Leave provides five days of paid and five days of unpaid annual leave for persons experiencing domestic violence. An additional option of up to 15 unpaid weeks in a 52-week period will also be available with prior written notice. This leave could be taken to seek medical attention, attend counselling or legal appointments, obtain victim services, and for a variety of other purposes. A fact sheet with more detailed information can be found here.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment undertook preliminary public engagement through stakeholder interviews and an online survey for interested members of the public to provide their input. A What We Heard Report is available here.

If you have questions or feel you are not receiving proper entitlements under the Act, please contact the Employment Standards office for assistance.

 

Documents

Employment Standards brochure

Family Violence Leave fact sheet

Family Caregiver Leave fact sheet

Employment Standards Act amendments fact sheet

 

Question and Answers

Do the changes affect pregnancy leave?

There is no change to the entitlement of pregnancy leave, which continues to be 17 weeks.

 

Was sharing of parental leave addressed before?

The amendment provides for sharing of parental leave and mirrors the approach in the Canada Labour Code while better aligning with the EI parental sharing benefit. It encourages parents to share parental responsibilities and time away from the workforce.

 

How do compassionate care leave and family caregiver leave differ?

Compassionate care leave is for employees to provide end-of-life care to family. The family member must be suffering from a serious medical condition with a “significant risk of death” within 26 weeks of the request for leave. Family caregiver leave is to care for “critically ill” or injured family members, but is not end-of-life care.

 

What is the definition of ‘critically ill?

Critically ill means a person whose baseline state of health has significantly changed and whose life is at risk as a result of an illness or injury.

 

Is there a service requirement to be eligible for compassionate leave?

No, employees are eligible from day 1 of employment.

Example

Dawn is employed and hasn’t used any compassionate leave in the previous 52 weeks. Dawn submits a request to her employer for 26 weeks of compassionate leave to care for her mother who is suffering from a serious medical condition. Dawn provides her employer with a medical certificate indicating her mother has a significant risk of death within the next 26 weeks. 

Because employees are eligible for compassionate leave from their first day of employment and Dawn has compassionate leave available to her, her employer approves her request.  Her period of leave begins Monday, May 4, 2020 and is expected to end on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

Sadly, on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, Dawn’s mother passes away. Dawn notifies her employer and makes arrangements to return to work. Her period of compassionate leave now ends on Saturday, August 15, 2020.

 

Is there a service requirement for family caregiver leave?

Employees must have worked for an employer for a minimum of 6 months to qualify.

Example

Darrel has been employed with the same employer for more than six consecutive months and hasn’t used any family caregiver leave in the previous 52 weeks. Darrel submits a request to his employer for 20 weeks of family caregiver leave to care for his critically ill daughter who is under the age of 18. Darrel provides his employer with a medical certificate indicating his daughter is critically ill and requires his care for 20 weeks.

Because Darrel meets the eligibility requirements and has family caregiver leave available to him, his employer approves his request. His period of leave begins on April 1, 2020 and he is expected to return to work on August 19, 2020.

On June 1, 2020, Darrel contacts his employer to request a further 20 weeks of family caregiver leave to care for the same critically ill daughter who is still under the age of 18. Darrel is only entitled to 17 more weeks of family caregiver leave to care for his daughter during this 52 week period, so his employer approves 17 weeks instead.

If Darrel’s daughter remains critically ill and under the age of 18, he his Family Caregiver Leave entitlement is reset and he can request 37 more weeks of leave in the 52 week period beginning April 1, 2021.

 

How is ‘family violence’ defined?

Family violence includes violence or the threat of violence against the employee or any child of or in the care of the employee. The definition matches the definition in the NWT Protection Against Family Violence Act.

 

In what situations can family violence leave be taken?

This leave could be taken to respond to varying situations of family violence. It could be used to seek medical attention, attend legal appointments or court appearances, obtain victim services, relocate to flee violence, or to attend counselling.

 

Example 1

Lucy has been employed with her employer for more than three consecutive months and hasn’t used any family violence leave within the calendar year. On Thursday morning, Lucy calls her employer to let them know she won’t be coming in to work that day. She is experiencing family violence and needs to seek medical attention and attend an appointment with her counsellor. On Friday morning, Lucy calls her employer to request a further day of paid family violence leave to attend an appointment with a lawyer.

Because Lucy meets the eligibility requirements and has family violence leave available to her, her employer should grant the leave and ask her to bring verification upon her return to work.

Lucy returns to work on the following Monday with a medical note for Thursday and a letter from her lawyer indicating she required their services on Friday.

Lucy’s employer should pay her for the wages she would have earned on Thursday and Friday had she not taken the leave. If Lucy’s regular hours of work vary from day to day or she is paid on a basis other than time, she is entitled to two average day’s pay. Please contact the Employment Standards Office directly at 1-888-700-5707 for further information about how to calculate an average day’s pay.

 

Example 2

Sarah has been employed with her current employer for more than one consecutive month and recently took two days off work using unpaid family violence leave. Sarah provided her employer with advance written notice requesting five weeks of family violence leave to relocate herself and her children to a family violence shelter in another community. In addition to accessing supports through the shelter, Sarah and her children need to reside in the other community to participate in legal action. Sarah expects to live at the shelter for five weeks. 

Because Sarah meets the eligibility requirements, has provided advanced written notice and has unpaid family violence leave available to her, her employer should grant the leave and may ask her to bring verification upon her return to work.

 

What’s the difference between days and weeks of family violence leave?

The days vs. weeks of leave are to respond to different situations:

Ten days of leave may be taken on an emergency basis without needing to give prior notice to the employer if it is not possible. The days may be taken at any time, and do not need to be taken consecutively. The first five days are paid and the remaining five days are unpaid.

The 15 unpaid weeks of leave are to address ongoing family violence situations. To take the weeks of leave an employee must give prior written notice to their employer. The weeks may be taken in separate periods, but each period of leave must be at least one week long. Employers must ensure that all records relating to an employee taking family violence leave are kept confidential.

 

What is meant by “reasonable verification”?

“Reasonable verification” can be flexible and could include a note from a counsellor, a court document, a medical note, or anything else suggesting the leave is required. This ensures that the leave is accessible.

An employee must provide an employer with ‘reasonable verification’ that the leave is required to access paid family violence leave. An employer may also require an employee to provide reasonable verification of the necessity of unpaid leave, but this is optional for the employer to request.