Frequently Asked Questions
- Payment of Wages
- Hours of Work
- Minimum Wage
- Temporary Layoff
- Extension to Temporary Layoff
- Termination and Termination Pay
- Annual Vacation and Vacation Pay
- Deductions from Wages
- Statutory Holidays and Holiday Pay
- Unpaid Leave
- Meal & Coffee Breaks/Recall Pay/ Employment Of Youth
How can I ensure that my employer is paying me properly?
An employee should keep a record of all hours worked, as well as a record of all wages paid.
When should overtime be paid?
Overtime is payable after the standard hours of work, which are 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is calculated on a daily and weekly basis. Overtime is at least 1.5 times the employees’ regular hourly rate. For example if an employee worked 9 hours per day he or she would earn 8 hours at the regular rate of pay and 1 hour each day at a rate of 1.5 times the regular rate for the first five days. On the sixth day all the hours worked would be calculated at the overtime rate because the employee has already worked forty regular hours during the week.
Are there any exceptions to when overtime should be paid?
An employer may apply for an Overtime Averaging Order which could vary the payment of overtime. If the Employment Standards Officer grants an Order to an employer, the order must be posted where employees affected by the Order may have access to it to familiarize themselves with the terms set out in the Order.
If an employee is employed primarily in a management capacity the overtime rules may not apply. Managers are exempt from the payment of overtime with the exception of statutory holidays.
Different rules apply to overtime if an employee is being paid on a basis other than time. For example if an employee is being paid by commission, per trip, per kilometer or salary. Please contact the Employment Standards Office directly at 1-888-700-5707 for more information.
Reference: Sections 7, 9-11 of the Employment Standards Act
Can overtime be “banked”?
Yes. An employer and employee may enter into a written agreement where an employee agrees to take time off with pay instead of overtime pay as long as both parties agree. The time off with pay should be taken at a rate of 1.5 hours for every overtime hour worked. Any banked overtime has to be used within 3 months of accruing it. If an employee requests payment for the overtime worked, the employer must comply and pay it out. When an employee has overtime banked and the employment ends, the overtime is payable on the final pay.
Reference: Section 12 of the Employment Standards Act
How long does an employer have to pay out an employee’s final pay once the employment has ended?
The employer has 10 calendar days following the employee’s final day of work to pay the employee all wages earned and any accrued wages owing including outstanding vacation pay and lieu time.
Reference: Section 13 of the Employment Standards Act
Does an employer have to provide a pay statement with my cheque?
Yes. An employer must provide a pay statement at the time payment of wages is made to an employee. That statement must include the period for which the payment is being made, the number of hours being paid for, the number of hours being paid for statutory holiday pay, the rate of pay, a detailed list of deductions and the actual sum being received by the employee.
Reference: Section 19 of the Employment Standards Act
How much vacation time and pay am I entitled to?
An employee is entitled to 2 weeks time and vacation pay at a rate of 4% after each of the first five years of employment, and 3 weeks time and vacation pay at a rate of 6% after the sixth and subsequent years of employment.
Reference: Sections 24 & 25 of the Employment Standards Act
What if I haven’t used all my vacation time or pay for the year, can I carry it over or request to have it paid out?
The saying “if you don’t use it you lose it” is not allowed. All employees are entitled to both vacation time and pay. The vacation time and pay should be taken and paid no later than six months immediately following the completion of the year of employment in which the employee becomes entitled to the vacation. Some employer’s may pay vacation pay on each cheque, employee’s paid this way are still entitled to unpaid vacation time.
Reference: Sections 24 & 25 of the Employment Standards Act
What are the maximum hours an employer can request an employee to work?
The maximum hours of work for employees are 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week with at least one day off per week. Overtime is still payable after the standard hours of 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. An employer may not direct or authorize an employee to work in excess of the maximum hours unless the employer has an Extended Hours or an Overtime Averaging Order. The only exception to this would be if there is an emergency situation. Orders are obtained upon application and approval from the Employment Standards Officer.
Reference: Sections 7-10 of the Employment Standards Act
What is the minimum wage in the Northwest Territories?
The minimum wage in the NWT is $13.46 per hour.
Reference: Section 5 of the Employment Standards Regulations
How do I temporarily lay an employee off?
If you wish to temporarily lay an employee off, you are required to provide the employee with written notice indicating their expected return to work date. Failure to provide this notice to an employee could result in the termination of their employment, in accordance with section 42(4) of the Employment Standards Act.
The temporary layoff must not exceed 45 days during a period of 60 consecutive days. If an employer lays an employee off longer than this period, the employee would be deemed to have their employment terminated on the last day of the temporary layoff and the employer would be required to pay the employee termination pay, if applicable.
Should you require a temporary layoff period longer than 45 days, you can request an extension from the Employment Standards Officer.
How do I request an extension to a temporary layoff?
The current process for requesting extensions to temporary layoffs requires employers to write or email the Employment Standards Office to request an extension to a temporary layoff, and provide details on:
- The number of employees affected;
- The number of days they are seeking to extend the temporary layoff by; and
- The rationale for the extension.
These requests are then considered by the Employment Standards Officer, whose discretion stems from Section 43 of the Employment Standards Act (Act). The Act requires the Officer to be satisfied that special circumstances justify the extension and the employee(s) will be recalled. In considering these requests, the Officer applies a “reasonableness” standard in determining whether they meet the criteria outlined in the Act.
What is termination of employment?
This means your employment is ended. Common expressions for termination of employment include:
- let go
- laid off (permanently)
Who is entitled to receive notice of termination or termination pay?
If an employee has been employed for 90 days or more and works 25 hours per week or more, he or she is entitled to receive either written notice of termination or termination pay in lieu of notice unless the employer has just cause to dismiss the employee.
An employer is not required to provide an employee with the reason he or she was terminated as long as the employer has met their obligations pursuant to Sections 37 of the Employment Standards Act and Section 4.1 of the Employment Standards Regulations.
An employee may be exempt from written notice of termination or termination pay in lieu of notice if an employee is:
- Temporarily laid off for less than 45 days in accordance with theEmployment Standards Act;
- Terminated for just cause;
- Terminated because the employee refused an offer by the employer of reasonable alternative work;
- Employed in the construction industry;
- Employed for a specific term or task and completes that term or task, not exceeding 365 days; or
- Employed for less than 180 days in a year, seasonally or intermittently.
Assuming I am entitled to receive notice of termination or termination pay, how much am I entitled to receive?
An employee is entitled to notice of termination or termination pay depending on the length of employment. The following chart specifies the periods of notice or pay required:
Length of Employment
Less than 90 days
Over 90 days but less than 3 years
Over 3 years but less than 4 years
Over 4 years but less than 5 years
Over 5 years but less than 6 years
Over 6 years but less than 7 years
Over 7 years but less than 8 years
8 years or more
An employer may give a combination of notice and pay in order to discharge their obligation to the employee. For example, an employee who has been employed for 5 years could receive 3 weeks notice and 2 weeks termination pay, or any combination thereof, to equal 5 weeks pay.
Reference: Section 37 of the Employment Standards Act.
Does an employee have to give notice to his or her employer if they are quitting or resigning?
There is no obligation under the NWT Employment Standards Act for an employee to give notice to their employer that they are terminating their employment. If an employee gives notice, it would be considered a courtesy.
What is progressive discipline, and does an employer have to use it before dismissing an employee?
If an employee is doing something problematic or inappropriate the employer may give a verbal warning followed by a written warning followed by possible suspension before dismissing the employee. The employee must be told what he or she has done wrong, what is expected and what will happen if the situation is not corrected.
All offences cannot be given the same weight. Some problematic behavior or performance issues causes more inconvenience or financial loss to the employer than others. Some offences would be considered serious enough to warrant immediate dismissal, also known as just cause.
Progressive discipline is a method employers are required to utilize to assist the employee to understand his or her performance or behavioral problems and offers the employee direction on how to correct any problems. Several factors play a part in progressive discipline:
- The employee must be told what he or she has done wrong;
- The employee must be told what is expected;
- If the problem is one which takes time to correct , the employee must be given a reasonable period within which to make the corrections or meet a reasonable standard; and
- The employee must be told what will happen if the situation is not corrected
When an employer follows this procedure and has all the steps documented, it shows that the employee was aware that his or her job was in jeopardy and may be terminated should the undesirable behavior or performance problems continue.
An employer does not have to use progressive discipline before terminating. An employer may choose to give notice or termination pay in lieu of notice to meet their obligation. Progressive discipline is an option.
Can an employer cut hours or pay rates in the notice period for an employee who has been given termination notice?
Reference: Section 37(5) of the Employment Standards Act.
When is an employee entitled to an annual vacation?
All employees are entitled to vacation pay on all wages earned. After the first year of employment, an employee is entitled to a minimum of 2 weeks off work for vacation. The employer must grant the employee's vacation within the next 6 month period following the completed year in which the vacation was earned. An employee earns a minimum of two week’s vacation for each completed year of service and after 5 completed years of employment the entitlement increases to a minimum of 3 weeks of vacation each year.
Reference: Section 24 of the Employment Standards Act
What amount is an employee entitled to receive as vacation pay?
All employees are entitled to receive 4% of their total gross wages as vacation pay for the first five years of employment and 2 weeks off per year after each of the first 5 years. Upon completion of the 5th year, vacation pay is earned at the rate of 6% and the employee is entitled to 3 weeks off after the 6th and subsequent years. The employer must pay vacation pay at least 24 hours prior to the beginning of the employee’s vacation.
Vacation pay is calculated on regular pay, overtime pay, commissions, bonuses (which form part of the employee’s employment agreement) recall pay, termination pay, profit sharing, shift premiums and statutory holiday pay.
All employees are entitled to vacation pay. Vacation pay accumulates from the first hour worked.
Reference: Sections 24 and 25 of the Employment Standards Act
What if an employee quits or is terminated before having the opportunity to take vacation?
Any outstanding vacation pay earned must be included in the final pay cheque. The employer has 10 days from the employee’s last day worked to pay any wages owing, or accrued.
Reference: Section 25(3) of the Employment Standards Act
Do part time or casual employees get vacation and vacation pay?
Yes. All employees earn vacation pay on their gross earnings.
If an employee damages the employer’s property, can the employer deduct the cost of the damages from the employee’s pay cheque?
No. An employer may not make deductions from an employee’s pay cheque for damages, breakages, shortages or outstanding debts.
Can an employer and a third party negotiate payment of an employee's outstanding debt by deducting the payment from his or her pay cheque?
An employer must have a written authorization signed by the employee agreeing to any deductions with the exception of taxes, government authorized payments, such as unemployment insurance, and court ordered payments, such as maintenance. Any other deductions without signed authorization are considered unlawful. The employee must receive a direct benefit from and give written authorization for the deduction (for example rent or payment of the balance on a charge account).
What types of things cannot be deducted from employees’ wages?
Employers cannot deduct the costs of:
- vehicle, equipment and tool repair or loss;
- breakage or other damages;
- faulty work or poor quality work;
- Theft, including dine-and-dash incidents;
- cash shortages;
- inventory shortages;
- uniforms and special clothing required by the employer;
- business supplies;
- interest charges or other fees for cash advances or cashing cheques;
- education expenses that only benefit the employer unless it is a condition of employment on hiring; or
- any other deductions that are of no direct benefit to the employees.
Reference: Section 14(2) of the Employment Standards Act
What are the statutory holidays in the Northwest Territories?
There are ten statutory holidays in the Employment Standards Act. 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
Reference: Section 22 Employment Standards Act
Are Easter Monday and Boxing Day statutory holidays?
No. They are not addressed as statutory holidays in the Employment Standards Act. An employer may choose to recognize them but is not obligated to under the Act.
Who gets paid for a statutory holiday?
There are several conditions employees are required to meet to qualify for statutory holiday pay.
- An employee must have worked for the employer for 30 days within the 12 months prior to the holiday.
- An employee must report to work on their last scheduled work day prior to the holiday and their next scheduled work day following the holiday.
- An employee must report to work on the holiday if they are scheduled, or called to work.
- An employee on pregnancy or parental leave is not entitled to statutory holiday pay while they are on leave.
- Part time employees are entitled to statutory holiday pay once they meet the conditions set out above.
Reference: Section 23 of the Employment Standards Act
What should employees be paid for a statutory holiday?
If an employee meets all the conditions for entitlement to statutory holiday pay and has the day off, he or she is entitled to receive an average day’s pay for the holiday. If an employee meets all the conditions and works on a statutory holiday, he or she must receive payment for the hours that he or she worked at the rate of time and a half, plus an average day’s pay. As an alternative the employer may transfer the holiday to another day giving the employee a day off with pay. Overtime is paid after 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. During a week containing a statutory holiday overtime is calculated after 8 hours per day and 32 regular hours in that week. The payment for the statutory holiday is calculated separately.
Reference: Section 23 & 24 of the Employment Standards Act
The method of payment for statutory holiday pay is different if the employee is being paid on a basis other than time. Please contact the Employment Standards Office directly at 1-888-700-5707 for further information on how to calculate.
Reference: Section 23(1)(b) of the Employment Standards Act
Pregnancy and Parental Leave
What conditions must an employee meet before she can take pregnancy leave?
An employee must have worked for an employer for 12 consecutive months before she is entitled to pregnancy leave. If the employer requests a medical certificate, she is required to provide it. The employee must give the employer at least 4 weeks written notice prior to her leave. If an employee does not qualify for pregnancy leave, she is still entitled to sufficient time off work to meet her physical needs connected with the birth.
What conditions must an employee meet before they can take parental leave?
An employee must have worked for an employer for 12 consecutive months before he or she is entitled to parental leave. They must give the employer at least 4 weeks written notice prior to the leave. Parental leave must be taken within the first year of the baby’s life or within a year of the adopted child arriving at the employee’s home.
Where an employee takes parental leave in addition to pregnancy leave, the employee must start their parental leave immediately following the pregnancy leave, unless the employer and employee agree otherwise.
Reference: Section 28 of the Employment Standards Act and section 12 of the Employment Standards Regulations
How much time off is an employee entitled to receive when they have a baby?
If the employee meets all conditions, they would be entitled to unpaid pregnancy leave of 17 weeks and unpaid parental leave of 61 weeks for a maximum combined total not exceeding 78 weeks.
Two-parent families, including adoptive parents, are also able to access an additional 8 weeks of unpaid leave for the second parent.
Does an employee get paid while they are on pregnancy and/or parental leave?
Should an employee be able to return to the same job?
Upon completion of the pregnancy and/or parental leave, the employer must reinstate the employee. The employee is entitled to receive the same, or a comparable position at the same wage, benefits and seniority including any increases the employee would have received if the leave had not been taken.
Reference: Section 34 of the Employment Standards Act
Is an employee entitled to be paid for sick leave?
No. Sick leave is addressed in the Employment Standards Act as unpaid leave. The Act states that an employee is entitled to 5 days of sick leave, without pay, in a 12 month period. A doctor's note does not require the employer to grant an employee time off pursuant to the Act.
Reference: Section 29 of the Employment Standards Act
Does an employee get time off work when a family member dies?
Yes. If a member of the employee’s “immediate family” dies, the employee may take three to seven days off work to attend a family member's funeral or memorial. The length of time depends on where the service takes place. Employees do not have to be paid for the time they miss work.
Reference: Section 31 of the Employment Standards Act
What is the definition of family member?
The definition of family member matches the definition in the Employment Insurance Act, which includes:
- the spouse or common-law partner of the individual;
- a child of the individual or a child of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a parent of the individual or a spouse or common-law partner of the parent;
- a child of the individual’s parent or a child of the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s parent;
- a grandparent of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner or the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s grandparent;
- a grandchild of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner or the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s grandchild;
- the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s child or of the child of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a parent, or the spouse or common-law partner of a parent, of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- the spouse or common-law partner of a child of the individual’s parent or of a child of the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s parent;
- a child of a parent of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner or a child of the spouse or common-law partner of the parent of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- an uncle or aunt of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner or the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s uncle or aunt;
- a nephew or niece of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner or the spouse or common-law partner of the individual’s nephew or niece;
- a current or former foster parent of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a current or former foster child of the individual or the spouse or common-law partner of that child;
- a current or former ward of the individual or of the individual’s spouse or common-law partner;
- a current or former guardian of the individual or the spouse or common-law partner of that guardian;
- a person, whether or not related to the individual by marriage, common-law partnership, or any legal parent-child relationship, whom the individual considers to be like a close relative or who considers the individual to be like a close relative.
Reference: Section 1 of the Employment Standards Act.
Can an employer terminate an employee because the employee is pregnant, on pregnancy or parental leave, compassionate leave, bereavement leave, sick leave or court leave?
No. The employer must prove that any change in the conditions of employment is not due to the employee taking unpaid leave pursuant to the minimums set out in the Employment Standards Act.
Reference: Section 36 of the Employment Standards Act
Meal & Coffee Breaks
Do employees get meal breaks?
Yes. After 5 continuous hours of work, an employee is entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes. The employer is not obligated to pay the employee for this time unless the employer manipulates that time by asking the employee to work or stay on the premises. It is not always possible to give meal breaks and in those cases the employer must apply to the Employment Standards Officer for a Meal Break Waiver.
Reference: Section 13 of the Employment Standards Regulations
Do employees get coffee breaks?
No. An employer is not required to provide coffee breaks. A coffee break would be considered a benefit over and above the minimum requirements identified in the Employment Standards Act.
What is recall pay?
When an employee reports to work at the call of his or her employer, that was not scheduled in advance, the employer shall pay the employee wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay, for a minimum of 4 hours.
This applies whether the employee, after reporting to work, is called on to perform any work.
Whether an “on-call” employee is entitled to receive recall pay, depends on the employee’s individual circumstances. If the employee as part of his or her employment agreement expects or routinely reports back to work this time is not considered a recall.
Reference: Section 6 of the Employment Standards Regulations
Employment of Youth
How old must a person be to work?
There is no minimum age requirement to work in the Employment Standards Act. Youth less than 17 years of age require authorization from the Employment Standards Officer to work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and/or when they are required to be at school. Anyone under the age of 16 is prohibited from working in certain industries, such as construction and forestry, among others.
Reference: Section 45 & 47 of the Employment Standards Act