Employment Standards, Safety and Human Rights

Employment Standards

Standard full-time work hours are eight hours a day, 40 hours per week. Employers must provide at least one day of rest in each week for employees. For every five consecutive hours of work, employees are allowed a 30-minute meal break. There may be exceptions at workplaces where this may not be practical. More information can be found through the Northwest Territories Employment Standards Office.

The Employment Standards Act and Regulations also govern pregnancy and parental leave, vacations, vacation pay and holidays. Pregnancy and parental leave comes into effect after an employee has worked for an employer for 12 months. Combined pregnancy and parental leave is a maximum of 52 weeks, and fathers and adoptive parents are entitled to 37 weeks of parental leave. This leave is unpaid. If a pregnant woman has not worked long enough to become eligible for leave, she must be given enough time off to satisfy her physical needs caused by pregnancy and birth.

Employees are entitled to two weeks vacation with pay for each completed year of employment. Once an employee has worked six years, he or she is entitled to three weeks vacation.

There are ten general holidays in the Northwest Territories as determined by the Employment Standards Act:

  • New Year's Day (January)
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day (May)
  • National Aboriginal Day (June)
  • Canada Day (July)
  • First Monday in August
  • Labour Day (September)
  • Thanksgiving Day (October)
  • Remembrance Day (November 11th)
  • Christmas Day (December)

Employers are required to pay their employees at least once every month. In the Northwest Territories, it is typical for employers to pay their employees every two weeks. Cheques can be deposited at a bank where you have an account. Some employers pay by direct deposit, where your pay is automatically directed in to your bank account.

Deductions for income tax, Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance, and health care are automatically deducted from paycheques. All other deductions, such as employee pension plans need the employee's permission first.

Worker's Safety

In the Northwest Territories, both workers and employers are required to follow safety regulations as set out by the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) of the Northwest Territories.

The WSCC:  

  • Promotes safe workplaces through education and regulation
  • Makes sure injured workers or their dependents are compensated and paid as much as they are entitled to
  • Makes sure employers are assessed fairly and sufficiently
  • Makes sure assessment costs to employers are as low as possible while ensuring that injured workers are fairly compensated


In the Northwest Territories, all residents must comply with the NWT Human Rights Act. This Act makes sure that all residents are treated equally. According to the Act, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass people because of:

  • Race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, and nationality
  • Sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
  • Family or marital status, or family affiliation
  • Social condition
  • Religion or creed
  • Political belief or association
  • A pardoned criminal conviction
  • Disability
  • Age

The NWT Human Rights Act states that it is against the law to discriminate against people in the following five areas:

  • Work and looking for work
  • Renting a home or a business space
  • Membership in a trade union or professional group
  • Public services such as health, education, or social services
  • Published materials such as newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, or signs

Discrimination cases are governed by the NWT Human Rights Commission. If a person feels that he or she has been discriminated against, he or she can file a complaint to the Commission.

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