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Your business and COVID-19 in Nova Scotia

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We’re here to help

To help you navigate these challenging times, this page provides information on pandemic-related restrictions, support measures, government services, and useful CFIB resources for Nova Scotia. You’ll also learn how CFIB is fighting for your business.

Update: April 28th –  Restrictions are in place for the entirety of Nova Scotia. To see how these restrictions impact your business please see the Public Health Measures and Restrictions section. 

The Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program (Part 2) applications are now open.

The Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program applications will be available the week of May 10th.

The Small Business Impact Grant (Part 3) was recently announced, and applications will be available by May 19th.

The COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program was recently announced, and applications will be available on May 26th.

For details and updates on all programs that could assist your business please see the Financial Relief and Government Support section.

Use our operational plan template

Protecting your staff, customers, and business is a top priority, so we’ve put together an operational plan template to help you do just that. With tips for best practices, advice on meeting provincial compliance requirements, and links to downloadable COVID-19 resources, the plan is clear, concise, and easy to tailor to your needs.


Public health measures & restrictions

Business restrictions
Province-wide restrictions:

As of April 28th  new restrictions are in place for all of Nova Scotia:

  • Individuals are not permitted to travel outside their local community unless it’s for essential travel like work, school, childcare, child custody reasons or medical and legal appointments
  • Personal services such as hair salons, barber shops and spas are closed
  • Indoor fitness facilities like gyms and yoga studios and sport and recreation facilities like pools, arenas, tennis courts and large multipurpose recreation facilities are closed
  • Unregulated health professions can remain open if they have an approved Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan
  • Retail stores must close, unless they provide essential services for humans, or animals
    • Essential service retail can remain open with 25% capacity
    • Additionally starting on Saturday, May 8th only one person per household may do essential shopping, stores will only allow one shopper per household, with exceptions for children and caregivers
    • Non-essential retail may offer online ordering, delivery and curbside pick up but they must limit their in-store presence to staff only
  • Shopping malls must comply with the Health Protection Act Order including:
    • Customers may enter the mall to complete their shopping transaction while using contactless payment for in-person shopping (essential service retail) or for curb-side pickup
    • Customers must go directly to the retail business to complete their shopping transaction
    • Customers must wear a non-medical mask
    • Maintaining a minimum physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) between patrons, including lineups outside the entrance of a retail business
    • Lineups for each retail store are no more than 5 people
    • Keeping music to 50 decibels
    • Non-retail public areas in the mall are closed
    • Food courts can only remain open for people who work in the mall and must maintain a minimum physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) between tables
  • Restaurants and licensed establishments are closed to seated service
  • Licensed and unlicensed establishments cannot host activities such as darts, cards, pool and bowling
  • Casino Nova Scotia in Halifax and First Nations gaming establishments must close
  • Outdoor fitness and recreation businesses can operate with 25 people and physical distancing
  • Businesses and organizations offering a wide variety of indoor recreation activities are closed, such as indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance classes and music lessons
  • In private indoor workplaces such as offices or warehouses, masks are mandatory effective April 23 in all common areas, places where there is interaction with the public, areas with poor ventilation, and areas where distance cannot be maintained
  • Wedding and funeral ceremonies hosted by a recognized business or organization can have five people, plus officiants
  • No social events, special events, festivals, arts/cultural events, sports events, faith gatherings, wedding receptions, or funeral visitation or receptions
  • Meetings or organized training hosted by an organization or a business are not permitted 
  • Gathering limits of 5
Travel Restrictions: 

Starting Monday, May 10th there are new restrictions on travelling into Nova Scotia. The border will be closed to those travelling from Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador for non-essential reasons. The border remains closed to all non-essential  travellers from other provinces, territories, and countries. The border is also closed to those moving to Nova Scotia.

The following will still be permitted to enter the province:

  • Permanent residents returning to the province.
  • People who work outside the province.
  • Post-secondary students returning home or entering to study — although parents from outside Nova Scotia are not allowed to pick students up or drop them off.
  • People travelling for child custody reasons.
  • People who are exempt from self-isolation and following the exempt traveller protocol.
  • People who follow the protocol for travel between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for work, school and child care only.

For all travellers a new application and registration process has been added to the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in.

Rotational workers must now fully isolate for 14 days once they arrive in Nova Scotia, they are no longer able to follow modified self-isolation. 

Specialized workers will now only be limited to critical infrastructure work.


Mandatory Mask Regulations

Since July 31, non-medical masks have been mandatory in most indoor public places in Nova Scotia.

Non-medical masks are mandatory in the following indoor public places:

  • 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 you 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 during 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, student union building or common areas of a faculty building, but not classrooms, labs, offices, or residences
  • Train or bus stations, ferry terminals, and airports

For more detailed please see the Mandatory Mask FAQ. 


PPE Procurement Portal

Are you a business that can supply products and service in support of Nova Scotia’s response to COVID-19? If so, the provincial government would like to hear from you. A procurement portal has been developed and includes a list of products and services the provincial government is looking for. 

Employee management

Employment standards

If you need to lay off employees temporarily, there is no requirement to give or pay notice since the COVID-19 is a circumstance that could not be foreseen by an employer. 

Emergency leave

If an employee cannot work because their employer has been ordered, under the Nova Scotia Health Protection Act, to close part − or all − of their operations, the employee would be entitled to emergency leave job protection.  This is one example of the application of the emergency leave provisions, there are other circumstances to which the provisions apply.  Employees are entitled to emergency leave for as long as they are unable to perform their work duties because of the emergency. Employees eligible for emergency leave must be permitted to return to their job once the emergency ends.  

Employer obligations & OHS

Businesses, organizations and health professions that were originally required to close under the Health Protection Act Order have since been allowed to reopen as long as they follow their sector-specific plans, and comply with updates to the Health Protection Act Order. They also need to have a Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan and follow gathering limits for meetings and training.


Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan includes 3 phases. Each phase identifies when different groups can receive the vaccine. The plan is flexible to allow for increases or decreases in vaccine supply. Every person in Nova Scotia who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will receive it for free.

As vaccine supply increases, access to the vaccine will also increase. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75% of the population by the end of September 2021.

Phase 1: initial doses and planning

How the vaccine will roll out in different areas of the province depends on vaccine shipments and distribution. Vaccine will be distributed on a rotation to cold storage sites as it’s received, until supply increases.

The first phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan focuses on:

  • Healthcare workers who work directly with patients in hospital or patients in their home
  • People who work in long-term care facilities
  • People who live in long-term care facilities and their designated caregivers
  • People who live and work in Department of Community Services facilities like adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres

Groups identified in Phase 1 will get an invitation to receive their vaccine in a healthcare or long-term care clinic.

Phase 2: expanding access

The second phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan expands access to the vaccine and focuses on:

  • Anyone who works in a hospital and may come into contact with patients
  • Community healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians
  • People who live in large group settings (correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing) and those who work directly with them
  • People who are required to regularly travel in and out of the province for work, like truck drivers and rotational workers (people who live in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick and cross the border every day for work are not included in this group)
  • People who are responsible for food security and cannot maintain public health measures because of the nature of their work (like large food processing plants)
  • People who are 80 and older
  • People who are 75 to 79
Phase 3: all Nova Scotians

The third phase of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 immunization plan focuses on all Nova Scotians who did not receive the vaccine in earlier phases, including all professions and people with health conditions. Most Nova Scotians will be able to receive their vaccine during phase 3. In this phase, Nova Scotians can receive the vaccine by age group (groups are in five-year increments).

Age groups include:

  • 70 to 74
  • 65 to 69
  • 60 to 64
  • 55 to 59
  • 50 to 54
  • 45 to 49
  • 40 to 44
  • 35 to 39
  • 30 to 34
  • 25 to 29
  • 16 to 24
Rapid testing

Nova Scotia Health has been offering frequent pop-up rapid testing clinics, in numerous locations.

Rapid testing is offered for people who:

  • Are over 16
  • do not have symptoms
  • have not travelled
  • have not visited a potential exposure location
  • have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive

You will receive a text with your negative result. If you do not receive your negative result, please reply to the text you received upon registration for rapid testing.

If you test positive, you will be notified and sent for a standard COVID-19 test.

Important: A negative result on the rapid test is not a guarantee. You could still develop or be exposed to COVID-19 in the coming days. It’s important to continue to protect yourself and others by continuing to wear a mask, washing your hands, maintaining social/physical distance and sticking to a small social bubble.

Mental health

With Canada firmly in the grip of COVID-19, it is anything but business as usual.  Many businesses are closing their doors and laying off staff, others have employees refusing to come to work. We are all stressed and everyone is worried about their health and financial well-being.  Amidst this turbulence, you as a business leader are scrambling to keep your business afloat while leading your staff through these uncertain times.

Here are links to resources you can access if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Nova Scotia

Financial relief & government support

Business Navigators

Business Navigators are available to help Nova Scotia businesses with any questions they may have. They can be reached Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm at 1-844-628-7347, 902-424-4475 or by email at [email protected]

For more detailed information, please visit the Nova Scotia COVID-19 information page.

Small Business Loan Guarantee Program

The program is a joint initiative of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council, Atlantic Central, local participating credit unions, and the Province of Nova Scotia. The Small Business Loan Guarantee Program supports provincial business owners with creating and maintaining rewarding careers for Nova Scotians each year.

The program is only available through credit unions, ensuring the investments remain in Nova Scotia. Businesses can access up to $500,000 in the form of term loans, working capital and lines of credit.

Loans may be granted for a term of up to of 10 years. The Province of Nova Scotia will guarantee up to 90 percent of the value of all term loans and up to 75 percent on lines of credit; however, a 90 percent guarantee may be available to those that qualify under the special financing streams.

All types of businesses are eligible except:

  • Residential and commercial real estate,
  • Beverage rooms and taverns, or
  • Any venture of a questionable ethical or legal nature.

Special financing streams for immigrant entrepreneurs and social enterprises as well as the forestry and high-risk sectors are also available. 

Agriculture Response Program

The COVID-19 Agriculture Response Program helps Nova Scotia's agriculture industry mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry's competitiveness, productivity, and profitability.

There are 4 streams for funding under the COVID-19 Response and Mitigation Program. The funding does not need to be repaid.

Stream 1: COVID-19 mitigation and adaptation for health protocol

75% funding assistance on total eligible project costs to a maximum of $50,000 per program year, to help applicants comply with recommended health protocols.

Stream 2: COVID-19 marketing, product movement and distribution

50% funding assistance on total eligible project costs to a maximum of $20,000 per project for agriculture companies and registered Nova Scotia farms.

Stream 3: COVID-19 strategic projects

Initiatives that meet the objectives of the program at a sector or industry level will be reviewed for funding on an individual basis.

Stream 4: COVID-19 abattoir efficiency and development

75% funding assistance on total eligible project costs to a maximum of $50,000 per program year.


These businesses and organizations can apply to the program.

  • Farms:
    • If the owner is at least 19 years old and is actively farming in the program year
    • If the farm is registered in the correct income category under the Farm Registration Act
  • Agri-businesses:
    • That represent identifiable Nova Scotia agriculture and agri-food products
    • That conduct value-added processing of a raw Nova Scotia agriculture product (at least 50% of the business's product), showing a direct partnership and significant economic impact to Nova Scotia's primary agricultural activity
  • Agricultural industry associations:
    • That represent identifiable Nova Scotia agriculture and agri-food products
    • That can prove their not-for-profit status
  • Provincially or federally licensed abattoirs
  • Mi'kmaq First Nations and other indigenous organizations involved in agriculture business

Applications from other businesses or organizations may be considered.

Emergency On-Farm Support Fund Program

Emergency On-Farm Support Fund Program helps farms improve their workers’ health and safety by limiting the spread of COVID-19 in agriculture operations.

Funding Eligible project costs include:

  • Adjustments to farm operations to ensure worker safety during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Costs related to training workers on COVID-19 protocols

Applicants are eligible for assistance of 75% on eligible project costs to a maximum of $50,000. Disposable personal protective equipment is capped at 10% of eligible project cost, to a maximum of $7,000.

Eligibility Farms can apply to the program if they:

  • Are currently registered under the Farm Registration Act
  • Have an owner who is at least 19 years old
  • Report gross commodity income of at least $30,000
  • Have at least 5 employees
  • Adhere to the Federal Quarantine Act
Small Business Impact Grant (Part 3)

Eligible businesses will receive a one-time grant of 15% of their sales revenue for the month of April 2019 or February 2020, up to a maximum of $5,000. Businesses established after March 15, 2020, are eligible for 15% of the sales revenue for any month from April 2020 to March 2021.


Previous recipients of a Small Business Impact Grant in eligible business sectors will receive an e-mail this week. Applications for businesses that did not receive a previous Small Business Impact Grant will open by May 19. 

Eligibility Criteria:

Businesses must have:

  • Been directly affected by the April 2021 restrictions;
  • Experienced an average monthly revenue loss of 30% or more for the period of March 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021, compared to the same time the previous year; or
  • Anticipate at least a 30% reduction in revenue in May 2021 as a result of the restrictions introduced in April 2021.

Eligible Businesses:

  • Restaurants offering in-person dining service.
  • Bars or licensed drinking establishments.
  • Fitness, recreational and leisure facilities including gyms, yoga studios, indoor play areas, arcades, climbing facilities, dance programs, and music lessons.
  • Personal services including hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons, and body art establishments.
  • Independent retailers with a physical retail location.
  • Live performing arts
Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program (Part 2)

Qualified operators can receive a 50% rebate on the first six months of commercial property tax paid in 2021-2022.


Applications are now through Tourism Nova Scotia

Eligibility Criteria:

Businesses applying for this program must:

  • Meet the definition of a roofed accommodation as set out in the Tourist Accommodation Registration Act;
  • Be registered as a host under the Act;
  • Have more than five rooms available to rent;
  • Not be in arrears of property taxes or property tax installment payments; and
  • Have experienced a year-over-year revenue loss of at least 30 per cent from April 1 to October 31, 2020.

Operators who received payments under the first Tourism Accommodations Real Property Tax Rebate Program will be automatically eligible as long as they are still the owners of the property.

Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program

Eligible businesses can receive a one-time rebate of $1,000 or 50% of the property taxes paid for the last six months of the 2020-2021 tax year.


Applications will open the week of May 10, 2021. 

Eligibility criteria:

  • Only available to recipients of previous Small Business Impact Grants (Part 1 or 2)
  • Must have experienced a year-over-year decline in revenues of at least 30% for the period April 30, 2020, to January 31, 2021. 
    • Or have started operations on or after January 1, 2020.
  • Must not have received a rebate through the Tourism Accommodations Real Property tax Rebate Program. 

Eligible Businesses:

  • Gym and fitness establishments.
  • Hair salons and barber shops.
  • Spas, nail salons, body art establishments.
  • Restaurants offering in-person dining service.
  • Bars and licensed drinking establishments.


Workers' Compensation and Government Fees

Government is deferring fees until June 30, 2021, for businesses that were required to close or had operations significantly curtailed by the April public health restrictions. 

Workers' Compensation premium payments will be deferred until July. Note that although payment is deferred you must still submit your payroll for the time period, even if it is $0. 

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program

Workers, including the self employed, who are unable to work remotely and miss less than 50% of their scheduled weekly work time due to COVID-19 could be eligible for up to 4 paid sick days. Applications will open on May 26th.

The program includes those taking sick days for:

  • Waiting to get tested for COVID-19
  • Self-isolating while waiting for test results
  • Going to get vaccinated

The 4 sick days don’t need to be taken consecutively. The program will cover eligible sick days taken between 10 May 2021 and 31 July 2021.

Self-employed persons are eligible if:

  • They are actively earning income from the business as their primary source of income
  • They are registered to do business in Nova Scotia, if applicable
  • They have declared business income on their most recent tax return
  • They have lost income because they missed time at work
  • They are in good standing with the Government of Nova Scotia (not in default of any financial obligations like loan repayments, taxes, fines, fees and administrative and court orders)
  • They aren’t eligible for or receiving other income support (like Business Interruption Insurance, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or any other income replacement or insurance programs)

The reimbursement payment is calculated based on the employee’s current rate of pay up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 day (the maximum total payment per employee is $640). Businesses can apply to be reimbursed for an employee’s pay when an employee needs to take time off.

What CFIB is doing in Nova Scotia

What we’re asking for
As we regularly communicate with the Nova Scotia government to get answers to your questions, we are actively lobbying them to:
  • Ensure shutdowns are consistent and targeted to the sectors of greatest concern, as backed by transparent healthcare policy evidence;
  • Impose lockdowns fairly to ensure an uneven playing field is not created between large and small businesses. As an example, if retailers are required to close, ensure that big box retailers that sell groceries are limited to providing essential services only and not permitted to sell non-essential goods in-store during the lockdown period;
  • Review and update lockdown measures regularly to avoid any business being closed longer than necessary;
  • Ensure provincial small business support programs are available to all sectors, when their operations are affected by increased public health restrictions;
  • Ensure provincial small business support programs are available to businesses of all sizes;
  • Extend availability of provincial small business support programs for as long as public health measures restrict the ability of businesses to operate;
  • Extend current and future provincial small business support programs to businesses that began operating during the pandemic;
  • Ensure the application process for provincial small business support programs are simple;
  • Convert provincial small businesses support programs introduced during the pandemic from “deferrals/loans” to “holidays/grants”;
  • Actively promote consumer confidence, and spending within small businesses.

Learn more on how CFIB is fighting for better relief at the federal level.

Additional resources

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