GNWT releases What We Heard Report on Employment Standards Act engagement

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Yellowknife — March 12, 2024

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has released a What We Heard Report that summarizes the results of engagement on the Employment Standards Act and regulations.

Between April and June 2023, a total of 323 individuals participated in the engagement, which included surveys, roundtable discussions, and written submissions. Employers and employees who are subject to the Act were represented, as well as labour, employer and non-governmental organizations, Indigenous Governments and Indigenous Organizations, GNWT employees, and Northwest Territories (NWT) residents.

The GNWT was seeking feedback on topics such as paid sick leave, flexible work arrangements, job-protected leaves, statutory holidays, and enforcement.

Some notable feedback from the engagement included:

  • Participants were generally in favour of a proposal to legislate paid sick leave in the NWT.
  • Employers were divided on a proposal to implement a statutory holiday in February, while employees and other participants largely supported the idea.
  • Participants were overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal to introduce Leave Related to Death or Disappearance of a Child, and extending Bereavement Leave to include prenatal pregnancy loss or stillbirth.
  • There were mixed results on proposed Family Responsibility Leave, Leave for Traditional Indigenous Practices, and Long-Term Medical Leave, all of which employers largely opposed.
  • Participants were broadly in favour of administrative penalty fees for employers who wilfully contravene the Act. However, they were divided on whether a public registry should be established for employers with unpaid fines.

The next step to update the Employment Standards Act is developing a legislative proposal for a bill that would amend the Act. The feedback will help inform the legislative proposal and will be considered by Members of the Legislative Assembly.


“Thank you to all the participants who took the time to provide feedback and share their experiences. It is crucial that we consider all perspectives as we look to update the Employment Standards Act to bring it in line with other jurisdictions’ minimum standards of work and address the new realities of work post-COVID-19.”

-Caitlin Cleveland, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment

Quick Facts

  • The Employment Standards Act and regulations establish the minimum standards of employment in the NWT for hours of work, overtime pay, minimum wage, vacation pay, statutory holidays, job-protected leave, notice requirements for termination of employment, and payment of wages.
  • The Act applies to most employees and employers that perform work in the NWT. The Act does not apply to federal government employees, GNWT employees, or workers in federally-regulated industries such as airlines, banks, and most telecommunications operations.
  • Prior to this review, the Act and regulations had not been subject to a comprehensive review in more than a decade.

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For media requests, please contact:

Department of Education, Culture and Employment

Government of the Northwest Territories