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THE QUESTION

On three separate occasions, my employer has been waiting on funds to be deposited in order to pay staff. When the company doesn't get paid, the employer states he does not have to pay us until five days after the day our pay is supposed to be distributed. I live in Nova Scotia and haven't been able to get a clear answer from the labour board. This has caused many of my co-workers to be charged a NSF fee. Is this legal?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Daniel Lublin

Partner, Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers, Toronto

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code provides your employer with the latitude to pay your salary up to five working days later than your regularly scheduled pay day. But habitually abusing this leeway is a form of bad faith, even if not technically illegal.

The late payment rule is not unique to Nova Scotia. Each province addresses this situation slightly differently. For example, in British Columbia and Alberta, employers can pay up to eight and 10 days later than the regularly recurring pay date. In Ontario, however, employers must pay you no later than your regular pay date.

Notwithstanding any of these rules, if your employer is repeatedly paying you late, or sometimes not at all, you are not working for the right company. In some cases, late payment of salary can also amount to a constructive dismissal.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather Faire

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Canadian human-resources executive, Atlanta

I am going to guess that you work for a small business or startup, which can experience payroll-funding issues. Most provinces allow for reasonably delayed wage payments, to provide flexibility for continued operations.

In the short term, you should explore ways to avoid NSF or late fees. Consider delaying or staggering bill payments and save for an "emergency fund" to cover pay gaps. You should ask your employer if they will reimburse your NSF fees to recover those losses.

In the long term, you should decide whether this is the employer for you.

Startups and small businesses can be exciting. The pace and decision making tend to be fast and there tends to be more openness to new ideas and experimentation. Employees can get more responsibility and gain unique experiences. There is a rare chance of an equity-payout jackpot. However, startups and small businesses tend to be risky and stressful. Employees can experience longer hours, lower wages or higher layoff rates.

Large or established businesses can provide more comfort and stability. They tend to be less stressful. Larger or established businesses tend to be less apt to let employees "play out of position" so development can be slower and more standard. Generally, the pace and decision making are slower and there is more resistance to experimentation and change.

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Where you work can be as important as what or how you are paid. Different work environments have their own risks and rewards. Choose the environment that is best for you overall to ensure your best opportunity for success and happiness.

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