• Define ‘Unreasonable’ in Nova Scotia?

    by  • 1/8/2009 • work • 0 Comments

    I was looking for something in the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code with regard to minimum times between shifts. I’m used to BC and Alberta, where you had to have 10-12 hours between scheduled shifts, so that you could sleep, eat, and recharge for the following day. I have a couple co-workers that are being scheduled with 8 hour turn arounds, and it was worrying. Turns out that the employee was the instigator in this case of quick turn around, but even if it was the employer, it seem like they’d be out of luck…

    I’m not even sure why they bothered creating this document, as it’s pretty empty of any protections for the worker or for the employer in many common cases. There’s a whole section in there about breaks that they shouldn’t even have bothered with, as the last sentence in the section completely makes even the existence of breaks at the discretion of the employer’s definition of ‘unreasonable.’


    If an employee works more than 5 consecutive hours, the employer must provide the employee with an unbroken half hour break. If an employee works more than 10 consecutive hours, the employer must provide an unbroken break of one half hour plus other rest or eating breaks totalling at least 30 minutes for each other 5 hours of work.

    For example, if an employee works a shift of 12 consecutive hours, he/she should receive a full half hour break plus an additional 30 minutes in breaks that can be taken as a whole or split into two or more periods totalling 30 minutes.

    Employers are generally not required to pay employees for breaks. However, if an employee is required to remain at the job site, under the control of the employer and to be available to work if necessary during the break, then this will likely be considered work. If so, the employee must be paid for this time.

    Exceptions to the requirement to provide breaks

    An employer does not need to give a break if it is impractical because of an accident, urgent work is necessary or because of other unforeseeable or unpreventable circumstances, or because it is unreasonable for an employee to take a meal break.

    So, you MUST get a half hour break, unless there’s an ‘unpreventable circumstance’ such as your employer saying ‘get back to work.’ This is the GUIDE to the code, so maybe the act itself is not as wishy washy?

    Also of interest is a section about liabilities of the employee when they quit without notice. I don’t know of any place where the Employer can effectively sue the employee for not providing proper notice; if they can show that they’ve lost money as a result of the employee not giving proper notice, they can keep your wages that you would have earned during the normal period of notice.


    NS Labour Standards Code (PDF)


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