Coronavirus (COVID-19): working and businesses
Guidance for employers and employees on how to keep workplaces safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On this page
Health Protection Act Order and public health measures
Nova Scotia’s reopening plan takes a phased approach to safely easing restrictions. The 5-phase plan is based on ongoing progress of provincewide vaccination rates and improvements of public health and healthcare indicators like COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations.
Employers and employees need to work together to protect their customers and keep each other safe. Employers need to make sure that employees are aware of employment rules and resources.
Businesses and organizations can use the COVID-19 Prevention Plan Checklist (PDF 113 kB) to help create a healthy workplace.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Make sure you're keeping your workplace clean.
Clean and disinfect workspaces (a minimum of twice a day or as required). Implement additional cleaning and disinfecting protocols, especially for high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, railings, and commonly used areas like washrooms, desks and tabletops.
Wash with soapy water first. Then disinfect using household cleaning products following the directions on the label, or a solution of 5mL of bleach per 250mL of water or 20mL per litre. Disinfect phones, remote controls, computers and other handheld devices with 70% alcohol or wipes.
You should also post handwashing signs and provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) to encourage frequent hand cleaning.
Remove non-essential items, like magazines, stuffed toys and other items, that can't be easily cleaned from reception areas.
Communication related to COVID-19
When communicating with employees and volunteers, businesses should:
- encourage workers and volunteers to remain up to date with developments related to COVID-19
- make sure employees and volunteers know to stay home if they're feeling sick
- make sure employees and volunteers know the steps they should take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, like social distancing guidelines and not eating while working
Gathering limits only apply to businesses and organizations that run social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals, arts and culture events or sports events. Gathering limits don’t apply to offices, restaurants, liquor licensed (drinking) establishments and most retail businesses. All businesses and organizations need to follow the Health Protection Act Order and their sector-specific plans, including any specific gathering limits.
Limit the number of customers or clients on the premises (indoor and outdoor) to no more than 10 people at a time if you’re not able to maintain social distancing.
Wearing a non-medical mask is required at private indoor workplaces (like offices or warehouses) in all common areas, places where there’s interaction with the public, areas with poor ventilation and areas where people can’t maintain a minimum physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
Occupational health and safety (OHS)
Employers and employees need to work together to maintain a healthy workplace.mplement additional safety measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, like plexiglass dividers and masks.
To help create a healthy workplace, consider how you’ll:
- adapt work practices and workflows, like high-touch equipment and tools, working from home, office setup, scheduling for employees and reducing the number of objects and surfaces that people touch
- increase ventilation, like doing business outdoors or keeping doors and windows open
- protect vulnerable populations, like having hours just for seniors
Learn more: COVID-19 Protocols for Office Workplaces (PDF).
Make sure employees and customers maintain a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) whenever they can. Everyone needs to follow social distancing guidelines to stay safe, help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect others.
Workplace COVID-19 screening program
COVID-19 screening (asymptomatic rapid testing) for businesses and organizations is an important part of Nova Scotia’s testing approach. As Nova Scotia moves through the reopening plan, workplace testing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces.
Workplace screening uses a rapid antigen test as a screening tool. Even with screening, employees need to follow public health measures like watching for COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing and use of personal protective equipment.
Any businesses or organization who is interested in offering COVID-19 screening for employees is invited to participate, regardless of size. You need to complete the Workplace Rapid Screening Program form to start the process to set up the program for your business or organization. After you submit the form, it should take 2 business days to receive information about next steps. Support will also be provided to help you develop a testing plan, provide free rapid antigen tests and training.
Online intake formStart now
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19
When anyone tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health contacts them directly. Public Health works with the person to identify all their close contacts and conduct a risk assessment to determine if any of their close contacts need to self-isolate or if a business needs to take additional safety steps.
Public Health directly contacts anyone who needs to self-isolate. Public Health only contacts the person's employer if they need to for contact tracing and investigation.
If Public Health doesn't contact your workplace, that means they decided the risk to people in your workplace was low. You don't need to do anything if Public Health doesn't contact you and any employees who weren't directly contacted can continue going to work.
If an employee needs to stay home, their employer can't ask them for a doctor's note. The employee contacts their employer when Public Health clears them to return to work.
Employers don't need to close their business if 1 of their employees has tested positive for COVID-19. They do need to make sure employees monitor their health.
If you have questions about workplace leaves, layoffs or other labour matters, contact the Labour Standards Division at 1-888-315-0110.
If you need to stay home
If an employee needs to self-isolate (even if they don't have COVID-19 symptoms), an employer can’t require a doctor's note if the employee needs to be off work.
Employers should consider how they can support employees while they're self-isolating. Talk with employees about flexible hours or alternative work arrangements if they’re required to stay home.
Leaves, layoffs and other labour questions
If you have questions about the Labour Standards Code, like taking leave or being laid off, contact the Labour Standards Division at 1-888-315-0110.
Workplaces are required to take precautions to ensure the health and safety of their employees and clients. If you're worried about safety in the workplace, you should talk to your immediate supervisor.
If the situation isn't resolved, contact your Occupational Health and Safety Committee or safety representative if you have one. Or contact the Safety Branch at 1-800-952-2687.
If you're a business owner or manager and you want workplace safety advice, contact the Safety Branch at 1-800-952-2687.
Trades workers’ safety
People working in trades may have special concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency has a COVID-19 Tip Sheet for Trades Workers (PDF) with more information on how to keep yourself safe.
Keeping customers safe
Workplaces and customers need to work together to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep each other safe.
Businesses, organizations and workplaces where non-medical masks are required under the Health Protection Act Order are encouraged to post a Face Mask Required Sign (PDF) to let customers and clients know that masks are mandatory. People with a valid medical reason are exempt from wearing a mask (you can’t ask them for a doctor’s note).
Businesses and organizations may ask customers to follow additional safety measures, like following signage to guide them through the business. If you have questions about additional safety measures, you can contact the business or organization to learn what they’re doing to keep everyone safe.
Sector association plans (questions and plan submissions)
- Canadian Business Resilience Network
- COVID-19 Response Standards and Handbooks (Canadian Standards Association)
- Hard surface disinfectants, hygiene and hand sanitizers (COVID-19)
- Pandemics (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety)
- Preventing COVID-19 in the workplace
- Risk-informed decision-making guidelines for workplaces and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic