Focus On

Northwest Territories amends Employment Standards Act due to COVID-19

Friday, July 02, 2021 @ 9:46 AM | By Amanda Jerome


The government of the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) amended the Employment Standards Act and Regulations, with changes coming into effect July 1, to provide “protection to N.W.T. workers and flexibility to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies.”

According to a release issued on June 30, the amendments include “the establishment of Emergency Leave, which provides job protection to N.W.T. workers by allowing them to access unpaid leave when they are unable to perform their duties because of an emergency, such as the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.”

According to the release, entitlement for Emergency Leave for COVID-19 is retroactive to March 18, 2020, “when the territory-wide Public Health Emergency was declared under the N.W.T. Public Health Act.”

“Employees who were terminated from their employment because they were unable to work as a result of COVID-19 may have grounds to file a complaint with the Employment Standards Office,” the release explained.  

The amendments also provide “flexibility to N.W.T. employers when an unforeseeable event or circumstance beyond their control prevents them from respecting the relevant notice period in the Act.”

“The Act now includes an exception to the legislated requirement to provide notice of group termination to the Employment Standards Officer and any applicable union when the employer can demonstrate the circumstances were beyond their control,” the release noted, adding that employers are “still be required to provide notice of group termination to the Employment Standards Officer and any applicable union as soon as possible, and employees will retain their entitlement to individual notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice (termination pay).”

R. J. Simpson, the minister of education, culture and employment, said in a statement that “through these amendments, the government of the Northwest Territories is reinforcing its commitment to providing protection to N.W.T. workers and flexibility to employers during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies.”

“This will make it easier for Northern residents to take time off work in the case of an emergency to care for themselves and their families, and ensure employers aren’t penalized for circumstances outside of their control,” he added.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Amanda Jerome at Amanda.Jerome@lexisnexis.ca or call 416-524-2152.