October 21, 2008

H1N1: Proposed Amendment to Labour Standards Code

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An amendment to the Labour Standards Code was introduced in the Nova Scotia legislature on October 15. This amendment would create an unpaid emergency leave for employees in cases of public health or other declared emergencies and would affect provincially regulated employers.

For the leave provisions of this amendment (Bill No. 40) to be triggered, the Nova Scotia government would have to declare an emergency.  Bill 40 would entitle an employee to an unpaid leave of absence if the emergency prevented the employee from performing his or her job duties. This would include circumstances where the employee was required to provide care or assistance to a family member affected by the emergency. The unpaid leave would continue until the emergency was terminated or no longer prevented the employee from performing his or her duties.

Under Bill 40, employees would be required to give their employer as much notice “as reasonably practicable” of their intention to take emergency leave. If an employee was required to leave work before notice could be provided, he or she would be required to advise the employer of the emergency leave as soon as possible after the leave began. Employees would also be required to provide their employer, where the employer so requested, reasonable evidence that they were entitled to the leave. 

Bill 40 was given its first reading on October 15. The Bill requires a second and third reading and Royal Assent before it can become law. 

If you have questions or concerns about the employment law implications of H1N1, including whether an employee can refuse to work or an employer can ask an employee to stay away from the workplace, please contact Tom Groves or Sarah Pottle

Learn more about our Labour & Employment law practice

View Bill No. 40 (as introduced)


The Progress of Bills in the Nova Scotia Legislature
The legislative process begins when a Bill is presented by a Member of the House of Assembly and is given First Reading by the House, without debate.

A Bill is given Second Reading after being debated in principle in the House.

Following Second Reading, Bills are referred to one of the legislative committees – the Law Amendments Committee or Private and Local Bills Committee – for detailed discussion in meetings outside the House. Members of the public can attend the meetings of these Committees and make presentations respecting any Bill. Amendments are frequently considered and may be adopted and included in the bill when it is reported back to the House.

Bills reported back from the legislative committees are debated, clause by clause, by the members of the House acting as the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. The Bill is then reported back to the House.

The Bill receives Third Reading and the final approval of the House. There may be some debate at this stage but usually the Bill is voted on with no discussion.

The Bill receives Royal Assent when the Lieutenant Governor signs the final version. The Bill is then referred to as an Act, and is assigned a chapter number in the Statutes of Nova Scotia.

Commencement is the day on which the Act takes effect. Ordinarily, an Act takes effect when it is given Royal Assent. Sometimes, however, it provides that it will come into effect only when is it proclaimed to take effect by Order in Counsel to be made by the Cabinet.


Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.