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COVID-19: Nova Scotia Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

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Reopening the economy

When is the start of the first phase of reopening the economy in Nova Scotia?

The province of Nova Scotia remains under a state of emergency until noon on Sunday, May 31, 2020. 

Effective June 5, most businesses that were required to close under the public health order, will be able to reopen.
Businesses must follow the guidelines and protocols put in place for their sector, including physical distancing, increased cleaning, and other protective measures for staff and customers. 

The following businesses can open if they are ready and choose to do so:

  • restaurants for dine-in, as well as takeout and delivery
  • bars, wineries, distilleries and taprooms
    • lounges are not permitted to reopen at this time
  • personal services, such as hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and body art establishments
  • fitness facilities, such as gyms, yoga studios and climbing facilities
  • veterinarians

Other health service providers can open on June 5, providing the protocols laid out in the colleges’ and associations’ plans are followed. These include:

  • self-regulated health professions such as: 
    • dentistry
    • optometry
    • chiropractic
    • physiotherapy
  • unregulated health professions such as: 
    • massage therapy
    • podiatry
    • naturopathy

Licensed child care centres and family daycare homes will reopen June 15. Child care centres will open at 50% capacity and then move up to 100% if they are able to meet the public health guidelines for child care settings. Family daycare homes will open at full capacity. All centres and homes must follow COVID-19 guidelines outlined by public health.

Which Businesses in Nova Scotia are currently mandated to close?

The Nova Scotia government has released guidelines on businesses that that can and cannot open.

What do I need to know before I can reopen my business?

The Nova Scotia government is preparing to reopen the province safely. They have prepared a website with information that will be updated as they make changes.

The government is also providing sector-specific information to help protect workers and customers from COVID-19 in the workplace. 

If I am reopening my business, does that mean the threat of COVID-19 is over?

No. In order to reduce exposure, you will need to follow public health guidelines, some of which are sector-specific, to ensure the safety of your employees and any general public with whom your business comes in contact.

I am not on the initial list of businesses that can open, when can I open my business?

The Nova Scotia government has released workplace guidelines to prepare for reopening businesses. 

Are there any fines for opening my business, if it is not considered essential or if it has not been reopened by government?

If a business is found to be in violation of a public health order, it could be fined up to $7,500. Both the RCMP and local police agencies enforcement power. As businesses open up based on Alert Levels, they will have to adhere to the public health restrictions currently in place.

I want to re-open my restaurant. What is required?

The government of Nova Scotia government announced that indoor dining areas and patios will be able to open to customers beginning June 5th.  Nova Scotia Public Health approved the Rapid Recovery Guide – Reopening Resource for Foodservice Operators. This comprehensive sector association guide provides operators with government re-opening requirements, industry best practices and links to Nova Scotia government resources. Individual businesses are required to develop individual operational plans based on this Recovery Guide. For clarity businesses can open with a maximum 50% capacity and parties are limited to the current maximum group of five. Establishments with a lounge or beverage room liquor license can open for food and beverage service but patrons must remain seated.  Cabarets are to remain closed.

Are masks mandatory in indoor spaces?

The government of Nova Scotia announced that masks will be mandatory in most indoor public places starting July 31.
Indoor public places include:

  • retail businesses
  • shopping centres
  • personal services businesses such as a hair and nail salons, spas, body art facilities, except during services that require removing a mask
  • restaurants and bars, except while people are eating or drinking
  • places of worship or faith gatherings
  • places for cultural or entertainment services or activities such as movie theatres, concerts and other performances
  • places for sports and recreational activities such as a gym, pool or indoor tennis facility, except while doing an activity where a mask cannot be worn
  • places for events such as conferences and receptions 
  • municipal or provincial government locations offering services to the public
  • common areas of tourist accommodations such as lobbies, elevators and hallways
  • common areas of office buildings such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, but not private offices
  • public areas of a university or college campus, such as library or student union building but not classrooms, labs, offices or residences
  • train or bus stations, ferry terminals and airports

Children under two are exempt, as well as three- and four-year-olds when their caregiver cannot get them to wear a mask. People with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are exempt. People are asked to use their own masks. Government will help with initial supplies of masks for people who can’t bring their own.

More information about wearing a non-medical mask can be found in the Mandatory Mask FAQ

Employment Standards Act

My business can be open, how do I re-call my employees?

Provide employee with as much notice as you can. You can send a registered letter to your employee letting them know the date of their next shift and/or hours, along with any relevant information they need such as a contact person, like a supervisor, if they have any questions or concerns. If you are interested in receiving a copy of CIFB’s Back to Business Template, please contact Businesses Resources at [email protected].

My business is financially unstable, can I reduce my employees’ wages when they return to work?

You are required to give proper notice to employees prior to changing any terms and conditions, such as reducing working hours, pay or entitlements that you have promised in a job description or letter of offer. Any drastic changes to an employee agreement can cause an employee to file a constructive dismissal claim to the Labour Standards division. A Labour Standards inspector will investigate the claim. Please contact your Business Resources Counsellor for further details.

Does my employee qualify for Statuary Holiday pay, even if they were not scheduled to work during COVID-19?

If you laid off your employee or they are on a leave of absence, they will not qualify for statutory holiday pay.

I am considering terminating my employee at this time, what should I know?

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Act outlines an employee’s minimum entitlement upon termination, which includes termination notice or pay, depending on the length of employment. While this may seem like the only option, please consider speaking with your Business Resources Counsellor as this can be a sensitive time to make this decision.

My employee has decided to resign, what should I do?

If the employee has decided to part ways, the employee should give you a letter of resignation for your records.

Occupational Health and Safety

What are my employees’ health and safety rights?

The Occupational Health and Safety division requires all employers and employees to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers. An employee has the right to participate by providing feedback to their employer, the right to know hazards that they may be exposed to, and the right to refuse working in an unsafe environment. For more information please visit Nova Scotia’s website on COVID-19 Working Safely.

What should I have in my workplace to maintain a safe environment?

While the Nova Scotia government has created guidelines to assist as you reopen your business, every business is different and you should assess your business operations to address potential risks. Preventative measures can include installing physical distancing signage; adding plexi-glass to create a barrier between customer and employee; and/or having a supply of hand sanitizer, paper towel, and soap for employees on site. For more information please visit Nova Scotia’s website for Keeping Workplaces Safe.

Along with creating preventative measures for your business, you should also aim to comply with the current occupational health and safety rules, such as having a violence and harassment policy and program, a health and safety policy/program, and training for your employees on Health and Safety Awareness. For more information please see CFIB’s Atlantic Compliance Checklist.

My employee feels ill, do I have to send them home?

If your employee is ill, the employee must be sent home. You should contact your employee remotely to advise them to complete the online COVID-19 assessment and call a family physician or public health at 811. You should create a list of their whereabouts in the workplace, including, but not limited to: the washroom, workstations, lunchroom, and equipment used. You can then assign a staff member to disinfect areas. If possible, also compile a list of staff they worked with during their shift.

What if I find out my employee has been exposed to COVID-19 at work, who do I notify?

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.

What should I know about how WCB of Nova Scotia will handle COVID-19 situations?

WCB of Nova Scotia will adjudicate claims related to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. As set out in the Workers’ Compensation Act, compensation is only available for a work-related injury or illness. It is not provided for workers who cannot work for preventative or precautionary reasons, such as self-isolation or quarantine.

What if my employees are refusing work due to COVID-19 concerns?

Employees have the right to refuse working in what they consider an unsafe environment. If this is the case, remind your employees of the preventive measures that have been put in place and the safety products available to them. Communicate to the employee that their safety is your priority.

You may choose to reassign work, perhaps allowing them to work from home. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment. If the employee feels that the matter has not been resolved satisfactorily, then they have the right to report their concerns to the Occupational Health and Safety Division. Please contact us for further details on this topic.

Can I hire a replacement to an employee on a leave?

You can hire temporary employees to replace employees that are unable to return. When hiring temporary staff, provide them with a contract that details their terms and conditions – as well as a termination date, which serves as the formal termination date.

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