Nova Scotia

Some Nova Scotia athletes exempt from minimum wage

Athletes in Nova Scotia are now exempt from minimum wage regulations following changes by the Nova Scotia government.

Athletes considered employees also will be exempt from vacation pay, defined work hours

Halifax Mooseheads left winger Jonathan Drouin holds the Memorial Cup after the Mooseheads defeated the Portland Winterhawks in the finals of the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Some athletes in Nova Scotia are now exempt from minimum wage regulations following changes by the Nova Scotia government. 

The changes to the provincial labour standard code affect Nova Scotian athletes that are considered employees of their teams, such as Halifax Hurricanes or Halifax Mooseheads players. 

"Paying minimum wage for all the athletes' time, including practice or travel, would make it difficult for teams to operate," Halifax Mooseheads president Bobby Smith said in a statement Monday.

"We want to ensure our athletes continue to have opportunities to develop athletically and play sports for Nova Scotia-based teams." 

Vacation, defined hours

It means that athletes — students, professionals and amateurs — can be paid less than minimum wage, and can be exempt from regulations on vacation pay and defined work hours. 

The province said, in the same statement, it was approached by the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), asking them to explore the status of CHL athletes status under the labour code. 

Halifax Hurricanes Billy White, right, defends against Saint John Mill Rats Gabe Freeman in January. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)

'Strike a balance'

Athletes who meet the definition of an employee will receive benefits and protections regarding leaves of absence and discrimination. 

"These changes strike a balance," Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan said in a release Monday. 

"They continue to provide protection for important issues like discrimination, while allowing for alternate ways of compensation." 

Association seeks legal action

A proposed labour union, the Canadian Hockey League Players Association, said  Monday night the group is seeking legal opinion to challenge Nova Scotia's decision, as well as one in British Columbia.

Student and youth employment is at risk by this, founder Glenn Gumbley said.

"We're looking at a constitutional challenge. This specific exemption for hockey players opens up a gate for every industry out there. Any other for-profit organization with employees are looking at this and saying, 'I have some options here to save some money'," Gumbley said.

"These players are under contract; they can't even get a job at McDonald's because they're playing hockey. They're literally stuck at their reimbursement."

Per diem, training is compensation

The government says the changes consider the other ways players are compensated, such as per diem, training costs and supplied equipment. 

The province says some types of work — like making all or some of their money through commissions — already are exempt from similar sections of the code. 

No one from the province agreed to an interview, and calls to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League weren't returned.


  • A previous version of this story said athletes who make money through commissions are already exempt from certain sections of the N.S. labour code. In fact, all workers who make money through commissions are already exempt from certain parts of the code. This version has been corrected.
    Jul 05, 2016 10:45 AM AT