COVID-19: working

Guidance for employers and employees on how to keep workplaces safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Health Protection Act Order and public health directives

All businesses, organizations and employees need to follow the Health Protection Act Order and public health directives. The are also business and service restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.  

Working safely

Employers and employees need to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect their customers and keep each other safe.

Cleaning and disinfecting 

Make sure you're keeping your workplace clean.

Clean and disinfect workspaces (a minimum of twice a day, or as required). Pay special attention to high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches and railings, and commonly used areas such as desks and tabletops.

Wash with soapy water first. Then disinfect using household cleaning products, following the directions on the label, or a solution of 5 mL of bleach per 250 mL 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 hygiene.

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 reduce the spread of COVID-19 (like social distancing guidelines and not eating while working)

Gathering restrictions

Gathering limits don’t apply to businesses and organizations unless their main purpose is gathering people (like theatres and sport events). Businesses and organizations must continue to follow the Health Protection Act Order and their sector-specific plans, including any specific gathering restrictions.

Occupational health and safety (OHS)

Employers and employees need to work together to maintain a healthy workplace. Learn more about occupational health and safety guidance to help workplaces assess COVID-19 hazards and implement controls to reduce them.

Opening for maintenance work

If your business remains closed to the public (like campgrounds) and you’re starting maintenance work while remaining closed, workers performing maintenance work must maintain social distancing.
Businesses that are open for maintenance work must:

  • use enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices for all workspaces, public and shared spaces (like picnic tables, garbage cans and other high-touch surfaces)
  • keep any recreational facilities associated with the business closed (including swimming pools, beaches, picnic areas, playgrounds and tennis courts)
  • make sure employees have appropriate supplies, like sanitizing wipes and cleaning products
  • post signs and update your website to let the public know that you’re still closed

Social distancing

Make sure employees and customers maintain social distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) whenever they can. All Nova Scotians need to follow social distancing guidelines to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of getting sick.

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19

When anyone tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health contacts them directly. They'll work 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.

Public Health will directly contact anyone who needs to self-isolate. In some cases, this means Public Health will contact the person's employer if they were at work when they might have been contagious.

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 any of your employees need to stay home, you can't ask them for a doctor's note. Your employees will contact you when Public Health has cleared them to return to work.

You don't need to close your business if one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19. You do need to make sure your employees are monitoring their health.

Employee support

If you need to stay home

Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia is required to self-isolate for 14 days from the day they get back to the province, even if they don't have symptoms.

Employers cannot require a doctor's note if an employee must be off work.

Consider how you can support your employees while they're in self-isolation. Talk with your employees about flexible hours or alternative work arrangements if they are required to stay home.

Leaves, layoffs and other labour questions

If you have questions about the Labour Code, like taking leave or being laid off, contact the Labour Standards Division at 1-888-315-0110.

Safety concerns

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 call the Safety Branch at 1-800-952-2687.

If you're a business owner or manager and you want workplace safety advice, call 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.

Sector-specific guidance

Requirements for Temporary Foreign Workers and employers

Temporary Foreign Workers who come to Nova Scotia need to follow the conditions of the Health Protection Act Order. Guidance for Temporary Foreign Workers employed in the Agriculture and Seafood Sectors (PDF 231 kB) outlines federal and provincial requirements, including expectations for employers and the pre-screening checklist for self-isolation facilities.

Instructions for fish harvesters and processing plant workers on how to self-isolate are outlined in the Self-isolation for fishery workers coming to Nova Scotia factsheet (PDF 114 kB).

Showing homes and rental units during COVID-19

If you’re showing real estate or rental properties to prospective buyers or renters, you need to take precautions to make sure the visit is as safe as possible.

Everyone must follow social distancing guidelines when showing or visiting a residence, staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from anyone else. You should also make sure to clean your hands before and after the showing and follow cough and sneeze etiquette.

There are other things you can do to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 during showings, including:

For landlords, salespeople and brokers

  • Don’t show a residence if someone who lives there is self-isolating.
  • Make sure the people viewing the residence don’t have symptoms, and that they’re not supposed to be self-isolating. Don’t let them enter if they are.
  • Ask the current residents to leave cupboard doors and closets open so viewers don’t need to touch them.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask while showing the residence. Ask anyone who’s entering to consider wear a mask too.
  • Travel to the showing separately
  • Disinfect surfaces that were touched during the showing, like door handles.

For prospective buyers and renters

  • Don’t view a residence if you are in self-isolation. Stay home.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask during the showing.
  • Don’t touch anything in the residence.

For current residents

  • Let your landlord know if you’re in self-isolation, so they don’t enter your home.
  • Open cupboard doors and closets before the showing so the prospective renters or buyers don’t need to touch them.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your unit after the showing.

For property inspectors, contractors and other visitors

  • Don’t enter a residence if you have symptoms or if you’re self-isolating.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask during the visit.
  • As much as possible, avoid touching objects and surfaces in the residence.
  • Disinfect any items or surfaces that you do touch.

Factsheets and posters

Find sector-specific guidelines and posters to help protect workers and customers from COVID-19 in the workplace.

Reopening Nova Scotia

As more businesses, organizations, services and public spaces reopen, we need to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep everyone safe. Learn more about how businesses and organizations need to prepare for reopening.