Breaks, Period of Rest

Breaks, Period of Rest: NS Labour and Advanced Education, Employment Rights

Period of Rest

The Labour Standards Code states that under normal circumstances employers must grant employees a rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours in every 7 days.


Emergency Situations

An employer can require more than six days of work in a row if, for example, there has been an accident or if urgent work must be done to machinery or a plant.  In these emergency circumstances, the employer can require only as much work as is needed to avoid serious interference with the ordinary operation of the workplace.  It is important to note that the employer still has to follow break and overtime rules.


Requesting an Exemption to the Rules

In limited circumstances, employers may apply to the Director of Labour Standards for a temporary exemption from the period of rest rule.  This is called a variance. For more detail on the rules around variances, please see our variances page or find the application form under the See Also section below.


Employees Not Covered by the Rules

The day of rest rules do not apply to the following employees:

  • most farm employees
  • commissioned salespeople who work outside the employer’s place of business
  • employees who work on a fishing boat
  • practitioners or students in training for architecture, dentistry, law, medicine, chiropody, professional engineering, public or chartered accounting,  psychology, surveying, or veterinary science
  • employees who do domestic service for or give personal care to an immediate family member in a private home and are working for the householder
  • employees who do domestic service for or gives personal care in a private home and are working for the householder for 24 hours or less per week
  • employees employed in offshore oil and gas work while under the jurisdiction of the Canada – Nova Scotia offshore Petroleum Board
  • athletes while engaged in activities related to their athletic endeavour


Rest or Eating Breaks

Employees are entitled to an unbroken half hour break, so the employee is never working more than 5 consecutive hours without a break. For example, if an employee works a shift of 12 consecutive hours, the employee 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.   In these situations, an employee must be able to eat at work unless this is unsafe or unreasonable.


Employees Not Covered by the Rules

The rest or eating breaks rules do not apply to the following employees:

  • employees who work under a collective agreement
  • athletes while engaged in activities related to their athletic endeavour



What if an employee has medical concerns requiring them to take a break at particular times?

Where it is necessary for medical reasons, under the Labour Standards Code an employee is entitled to take rest or eating breaks at times other than those summarized above; also, an employee may have a right to additional breaks as an accommodation under the Human Rights Act.

Are employers required to post shift schedules and procedures related to notifying employees of upcoming shifts?

The Labour Standards Code does not set any requirements for the posting of schedules. Procedures for such would be at the discretion of the employer.



If you have any questions, please contact Labour Standards.


See Also




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