FAQs

Below are frequently asked questions. Do you have a question that you would like to submit? Please send your questions to tians@tourism.ca

NEW - July 2020 FAQ's from Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health FAQ Re-opening Gathering Limits July 9 2020

Government of Canada: FAQ – Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers
The Hotel Association of Canada: FAQ - Taking Care of Employees and Guests
Tourism Nova Scotia: FAQ - COVID-19 and Tourism
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB): FAQ - COVID-19 Small Business Help Centre

  • Face Masks in the Workplace

    Q1. ARE WE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO MAKE WORKERS USE FACE MASKS?
    A: Yes. The source of that duty is the OHS law requirement that employers ensure that workers use appropriate PPE, including respiratory equipment to protect them against the hazards to which they’re exposed. To apply these principles to COVID-19, you need to understand
    how the virus spreads.

    Dynamic: Respiratory droplets from a person carrying the virus come into contact with another person, either as a result of direct physical contact or indirectly via droplets that land on surfaces that another person subsequently touches. Face masks keep this from happening.

    Q2. WHO HAS TO WEAR FACE MASKS?
    A: According to current Canadian Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance, all individuals should wear face masks where social distancing, i.e., 6 feet/2 meters of physical separation can’t be maintained. That includes not just workers but also all individuals at the facility, including contractors and subcontractors, customers, clients and other visitors. The only exception is for people who work remotely, alone, in isolation or in other settings and conditions where they have no close contact with others.

    Q3. WHAT KIND OF FACE MASKS MUST WORKERS USE?
    A: It depends on the jobs they perform:

    “Very high” or “High” risk jobs, which include mostly healthcare workers, EMTs, ambulance personnel and medical support staff, must use N95 particulate filtering masks at a minimum and may need more extensive protection, e.g., self-contained breathing apparatus if they have an unusually high degree of frequent or close contact with patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. “Medium” and “low” risk jobs require only a nonmedical face mask. In fact, the CMO doesn’t want these workers or the general public to use N95s because they’re in short supply and need to be reserved for healthcare workers.

    Q4. MUST EMPLOYERS PROVIDE THE REQUIRED FACE MASKS?
    A: Yes. Under OHS laws, employers are responsible for paying for and furnishing the PPE workers need to do their jobs. So, you can’t re-open unless and until you verify that you can secure an adequate supply of face masks.

    Q5. MUST EMPLOYERS PROVIDE FACE MASKS WORKERS NEED TO COMMUTE TO AND FROM WORK?
    A: Technically, you’re required to provide workers PPE only when they’re present at the workplace. But keep in mind that OHS laws define “workplace” very broadly as including not just the employer’s facility but also any place where workers are routinely expected to perform their job, e.g., at customer sites, while traveling on business and, in some cases, even inside the worker’s home in telecommuting situations. However, commuting to and from work doesn’t count. As a practical matter, though, workers should be able to use the simple non-medical face masks you provide during the shift while returning home from work and traveling to the workplace for the next shift.

    Q6. CAN N95 MASKS BE RE-USED?
    A: Normally no, but given the current emergency and mask shortage, public health authorities have given the okay to extended or re-use of N95s if employers ensure that: Masks are properly sterilized and stored between uses; Users perform a successful seal check before each
    use; Users are instructed to inspect their mask before each use and throw it out if the functional integrity of any of its parts is compromised; and the user follows safe procedures to prevent
    contamination when putting on and taking off a reused mask.

    Q7. CAN N95 MASKS BE USED AFTER THEY HAVE EXPIRED?
    A: Normally, N95 mask NIOSH approval expires after 5 years and you’re not allowed to use it after that. But during the pandemic, it’s okay to use an N95 after its 5-year shelf life as long as employers ensure that: The straps are inspected to ensure they still work and effect a tight seal; The mask is visually inspected, especially the nose bridge and filter material which can degrade;
    the mask is still capable of being fit-tested and the user carries out a successful fit-test and seal check before each use; and the masks were stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

    Q8. CAN YOU DISCIPLINE WORKERS FOR REFUSING TO WEAR A FACE MASK?
    A: Yes. You not only can but must treat a worker’s violation of PPE, social distancing, hygiene and other COVID-19 rules and restrictions as a serious offence meriting discipline in accordance with your normal progressive discipline policies and procedures. 

    Q9. IS RELIGION A VALID EXCUSE NOT TO WEAR A FACE MASK?
    No. The good news is that the non-medical masks that most workers will have to use don’t require a tight fit to be effective. So, workers won’t have to shave their beard to use them. But religious discrimination could become an issue in a healthcare setting where workers required to have beards for religious reasons are required to use tight-fitting masks. The first thing employers should do in this situation is consider accommodations allowing the worker to do the job without wearing the mask, e.g., assigning him to a position not involving close contact with others. But the one compromise you may not make is allowing the worker to do a job requiring an N95 (or more extensive equipment) with a looser mask or no mask at all. Explanation: Human rights laws require employers to accommodate workers’ religious beliefs to the point of undue hardship. Court cases have made it clear that undue hardship includes accommodations that would put a worker or another person in direct danger. Bottom Line: The duty to prevent COVID-19 infection takes precedence over the worker’s religious rights.

    Q10. DO WORKERS NEED ANY SPECIAL FACE MASK USE TRAINING?
    A: Yes. You must ensure workers understand:
    • How COVID-19 infections can occur;
    • How the face mask protects them from infection;
    • The mask’s limitations and capabilities; and 
    • How to correctly use the mask.

    Workers required to use N95 or other tight-fitting respirators also need to be trained on how to perform the necessary inspections and seal checks. And if the mask or respiratory protection is to be re-used, they must also be trained in how to correctly store, clean and maintain the equipment.

    - - -
    The above Q&A's were pulled from the OHS Insiders' document, The New Normal: Implementing a Mandatory Workplace Face Mask Policy

     

  • Charter Busing Capacity

    Dr Strang has approved an increase of up to 75% passenger capacity for charter vehicles. All safety protocols must be enacted which include non-medial masks worn by all (Driver and passengers) while on the bus.

    Q: Does this apply to Nova Scotia only?
    A: This applies to Charters originating in Nova Scotia, however these charter buses/passengers can move into and around New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, if boarded in Nova Scotia.

    Q: What configuration must be followed for seating?
    A: Individual operators have been provided with diagrams outlining their requirements. Contact your Carrier/Operator or the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for further information on capacity and configuration requirements.

    Q: Are the other provinces adopting this new model? 
    A: The Nova Scotia Public Health Office is in communication currently with the other Atlantic Public Health Offices to encourage this new model. In the meantime however, if buses originate from the Provinces of NB, PEI and NF, they have opted for a maximum 50% capacity using a Transit (window only) or Crisscross Method  to a 50% maximum.  Should you wish further information please contact those provincial government departments.

    Q: What kind of PPE is being required for charter transportation?
    A: It is critical that all the other Public Health measures such as passenger screening, hand washing before entering, mask wearing as well loading and unloading protocols are consistently followed. 

    For more information about the most up-to-date health and safety protocols and requirements, visit TourismStrong.ca.

    Need assistance developing your own operational guidelines? Please consult our Tourism Reactivation of Industry (TRI) program for more information. 

     
  • Workplace COVID-19 Testing

    Q: Can We Require Employees to Get Tested for COVID-19?
    A: Yes, provided that:

    • You really need test results to ensure the health and safety of your workplace;
    • There are no less privacy intrusive measures available to obtain that information;
    • You keep the information private and secure use and disclose it only for health and safety purposes.

     

    Point of Clarification: “Requiring” testing doesn’t mean physically forcing employees to undergo testing; it just means that you can order them to leave or prevent them from reporting to work if they refuse to be tested.

    Q: In Which Circumstances Is Employee COVID-19 Testing Allowed?
    A: As of August 18, no Canadian public health agency has specifically addressed this question. So, the best source ofguidancecomes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says workplace testing for non-healthcare workers is appropriate in 5 situations:

    1. Testing employees with COVID-19 symptoms (see the box below);

    2. Testing employees with known recent (within 48 hours) exposure, e.g., prolonged (15 minutes or more) close (within 6 feet/2 meters) of a person confirmed as having COVID-19;

    3. Surveillance testing asymptomatic employees without any known or suspected exposure in certain kinds of high-risk workplaces;

    4. Testing employees in self-isolation or quarantine to see if they can return to work; and

    5. Testing for public health surveillance purposes to detect transmission hot spots or study workplace disease trends.

    Most Common COVID-19 Symptoms

    • Fever

    • Cough

    • Tiredness

    • New Loss of Taste or Smell

    • Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing

    • Muscle Aches

    • Chills

    • Sore Throat

    • Runny Nose

    • Headache

    • Chest Pain

    • Diarrhea or Nausea

    These rules would also likely apply in Canada, with the possible exception of #3.

    Explanation
    Because it’s the most privacy-intrusive, requiring all employees to be tested even if they don’t have symptoms is the hardest to justify and would likely be allowed only in workplaces where social distancing can’t be maintained or in remote settings such as offshore oil platforms where employees can’t get immediate treatment.

    Q: Does It Matter Which Kind of COVID-19 Testing We Use?
    A: Yes. There are 2 basic kinds of COVID-19 tests currently available:

    • Molecular RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests detect RNA from the virus that causes coronavirus from throat tissue samples collected with long swabs; and

    • Blood-based serological tests detect not the virus itself but the antibodies the body creates to fight it.

    While antibody tests are much faster, they’re far less accurate than the molecular RT-PCR tests. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, i.e., the U.S. equivalent of the provincial human rights commissions, has made it clear that employers aren’t allowed to use antibody tests for COVID-19 screening. The same reasoning would seem to apply in this country. But so far at least, none of the Canadian human rights commissions have made a distinction between RT-PCR and antibody testing for purposes of workplace screening.

    Q: When Should Employees Be Tested?
    A: It depends on whether the employee has symptoms:

    The Symptomatic: Testing should be required immediately after employees exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or are discovered to have had recent exposure. Employees should also be sent home until their test results.

    The Asymptomatic: Asymptomatic employees should be tested before they report to work. The best solution would be to test employees right at the site and get instant results. But current testing technology doesn’t allow for this. RT-PCR tests must be done by an offsite testing lab using special instruments to isolate the patient’s RNA and take about 48 hours to process—or even a week or more if the lab is backed up. This obviously reduces the reliability of the test results because of the risk that employees will develop the virus after they’re tested and before the results are reported. This is something you need to consider in determining whether testing makes sense for your organization.

    Q: How Often Should Employees Be Retested?
    A: It would be great if you could test employees each day when they arrive for work and clear them based on their test results a la temperature screening. But testing doesn’t work this way. So, you need to determine how frequently testing needs to be repeated based on the risks involved and factor the minimum 48-hour delay into the process.

    Exception: Employees with symptoms and recent exposure need to be tested immediately, regardless of when they were last tested.

    Q: Do Employees Need to Be Tested If They’ve Recovered from COVID-19?
    A: Yes. There’s currently no scientific proof that people who’ve had COVID-19 can’t get it again. Consequently, you shouldn’t exempt employees from your testing requirements simply because they’ve already had COVID-19.

    Q7: Who Should Do the Actual Testing?
    A: Unless you’re an accredited healthcare organization, you can’t do COVID-19 testing yourself but must hire a qualified lab company to do it for you. Because testing services are in such high demand right now, you might have to pay a premium rate.

    Q: Do I Have to Pay Employees for Testing Time?
    A: That shouldn’t be an issue if the testing company collects samples right at your site. But if employees have to go to an offsite lab to be tested, your reimbursement obligations will depend on the terms of your current employment contracts, collective agreements and health plans. In other words, we’re not aware of any OHS or public health laws that require employers to pay their employees for their time getting COVID-19 tested.

    Q: What Testing Information Must You Provide Employees?
    A: Privacy and human rights commissions have made it clear that employers need to be open and transparent about their testing policies and provide employees information about:

    • The purpose of testing;

    • The medical information they intend to collect;

    • How they propose to use that information, especially positive test results;

    • To whom and for what purpose they will disclose the information; and

    • How long they plan to keep the information.

    Q: What Should We Do If an Employee Tests Positive?
    A: Immediately send the employee home and require him/her to self-isolate for as long as required under current public health guidelines. The one thing you cannot do is terminate or discipline the employee for testing positive.

    Q: Whom Can We Notify If an Employee Tests Positive?
    A: In most jurisdictions, employers must report workplace COVID-19 cases to local health officials. You also need to notify employees, contractors, clients and guests who’ve had recent and close contact with the employee in the workplace of the case and advise them to be tested. But be careful to limit the disclosure to the minimum information necessary to alert notice recipients to the situation and fact that they’re at risk without disclosing the employee’s name or other personal information that may be used to identify him/her.

  • Mandatory Masks on Public Transportation

    View the Slide DeckSlide Deck from the Webinar with Dr. Strang.

    Starting July 24, it will be mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear a non-medical mask on public transportation. Public transportation includes:

    o public transit buses and ferries
    o school buses
    o motorcoaches(exceptthosethatprovidechartersortours) o communitytransitvehicles
    o privatetaxisandshuttles

    • Children under two and people with a medical reason for not wearing a mask are exempt.

    • Passengers are asked to use their own masks as much as possible. Government will help transportation services with supplies of masks for people who can’t bring their own.

    • This is a first step toward ensuring Nova Scotians wear masks in places where it is difficult to maintain physical distance from others.

      Q: Why are you doing this now? Why not at the beginning of the pandemic?
      A: The evidence on non-medical masks has evolved through the pandemic, and our public health direction has evolved along with it. We have learned that they are effective in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. Before a second wave of arrives, we need to make mask wearing a habit for Nova Scotians.

      Q: Why are non-medical masks so important?
      A: Non-medical masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our response to this pandemic has highlighted that, in many ways, we need to think about others and put them first. Wearing a non-medical mask shows that you care about others and you are asking them to do the same for you. We need to continue caring, community, and common sense.

      Q: Why only make masks mandatory on public transportation? Why not all indoor public settings? Are you considering making it mandatory in more places?
      A: We are continuing to look at the epidemiology and different settings. This is a first step toward ensuring Nova Scotians wear masks in places where it is difficult to maintain physical distance from others. We are starting with public transportation because it’s essential for many people, it’s a closed environment, and we’ve had some cases that were transmitted in this setting.

      Q: What’s your definition of public transportation?
      A: Our definition of public transportation is: municipal transit buses and ferries, school buses

    • motor coaches (except those that provide charters or tours), community transit vehicles

    • private taxis and shuttles

      For the purposes of this requirement, public transportation does not include: private buses or other vehicles for transporting employees, provincial ferries, such as the ones at Englishtown and LaHave ferries between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland

      Q: What are medical reasons for not wearing a mask?
      A: There are very few valid medical reasons to not wear a mask. The Canadian Thoracic Society states that there is no evidence that wearing a mask worsens a chronic lung condition such as asthma or COPD.For some people with chronic breathing conditions or mental health conditions, wearing a mask can create anxiety. However, there are ways to overcome anxiety such as practicing wearing a mask for short periods of time at home. There are also some people with cognitive or developmental disabilities who are unable to wear a mask.

      Q: Some people say wearing a mask can make you sick, like inhaling too much carbon dioxide or not getting enough oxygen. Is there any truth to that?
      A: That is absolutely false. Other than children under two and people with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask, there is no health hazard associated with wearing one. Medical professionals and others wear masks all day, every day. There is no reason why the majority of Nova Scotians can’t wear one for shorter periods when they can’t ensure physical distancing.

      Q: Can you get a document to show proving that you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask?
      A: We will not issue or ask for a medical certificate so please do not go to your doctor’s office asking for one. Please do not look for reasons to not wear a mask.Please be aware of a fake document that is circulating that suggests it is proof from public health officials that the bearer cannot wear a mask. No public health agency has authorized this document.

      Q: What constitutes a non-medical mask? Could anything that covers the nose and mouth be accepted?
      We encourage people to use a traditional non-medical mask. There are many local suppliers making and selling them, and while prices vary, some are quite economical. You can also make one with a bandana or similar piece of cloth folded in at least three layers of fabric. 

      Q: How do you properly wear a non-medical mask?
      A: People should learn how to put on and take off a mask safely. Do not touch your mask when you are wearing it. Learn more here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases- conditions/covid-19-safely-use-non-medical-mask-face-covering.html

      Q: Can I wear a face shield in place of a non-medical mask?
      A: We strongly recommend that Nova Scotians wear non-medical masks to avoid spreading COVID-19 to other people and must wear them on public transportation starting July 24. Nova Scotians should not wear a face shield instead of a non-medical mask. It protects the wearer’s eyes but does not protect other people if the wearer coughs or sneezes.

    •  
    • Q: If you’re wearing a mask, does that mean you don’t have worry about other public health measures?

    A: No, masks need to be used as part of the package of personal protective measures: physical distance as much as possible, limit the number of people you get together with, stay home if you are unwell, use good hand washing and cough hygiene, and clean common surfaces and objects.

    Q: What about people who can’t afford a mask or who forget theirs?
    A: Many masks are very affordable, but we are looking at ways to make sure people are able to access a mask regardless of their situation. Government will help transportation services with supplies of masks for people who can’t bring their own.

    Q: Do people have to wear a mask while they are waiting for a bus, or just when they get on one?
    A: We strongly recommend people wear masks when physical distancing is difficult. At some bus stops, especially inside and around main terminals, there can be a lot of people so even if you are waiting outside, you should wear a mask. If there are very few people and lots of room for distancing, you don’t need to wear the mask while you wait.

    Q: Are masks mandatory for people in their own private vehicles? What about people carpooling?
    A: People do not need to wear a mask in their own private vehicles. We would strongly recommend that they do if they are carpooling or if they need to drive someone who is not in their household or close social group.

    Q: Are masks mandatory for limos and other car services?
    A: Yes, we consider limos and other car services to be the same as taxis.

    Q: Why not make masks mandatory on provincial ferries (Englishtown, LaHave, etc) or on ferries to and from Nova Scotia?
    A: There are options on these ferries to stay in your car or maintain physical distance from other people. Masks are mandatory on transit ferries like the ones that cross Halifax Harbour.

    Q: How will thing work for masks on school buses?
    A: Non-medical masks will be mandatory on school buses. We are looking at the school bus setting as part of our work with Education and Early Childhood Development on plans for the 2020-21 school year.

    Q: Why not make masks mandatory for employers who transport workers with their own private buses or other vehicles?
    A: We are not making masks mandatory in this setting, but we do strongly recommend them. Employers may choose to require masks under a specific work protocol.

    Q: What happens if someone refuses to put on a mask or takes it off during the ride? Can the driver refuse to let them on or kick them off?
    A: Owners of public transportation systems can develop their own policies and procedures. We are reaching out to hold meetings to prepare for implementation on July 24.

    Q: Who do passengers complain to if the rule isn’t being enforced?

    A: Passengers should take the issue to the owner of the transportation service such as a transit authority or a taxi company. If the issue is not resolved, they can call the Safety Division at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

    Q: Who does the driver complain to if passengers or other drivers aren’t following the rule?
    A: A driver should bring the issue to his or her OHS committee if there is one, or to their employer. If the issue is not resolved, they can call the Safety Division at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

    Q: What are the municipal transit systems that the mask requirement applies to?

    • Halifax Transit

    • CBRM Transit

    • Kings Transit

    • Bridgewater Transit

    • Town of Yarmouth Transit

    • Antigonish Community Transit Society

    • Strait Area Transit

      Q: What are the community transit systems that the mask requirement applies to?
      Antigonish Community Transit Society
      Bay Rides
      CHAD Transit
      Colchester Transportation Cooperative Ltd
      Cumberland County Transportation Society
      East Hants Community Rider

    • H.O.P.E. Dial-a-Ride
      Kings Point-To-Point Transit
      La Transport de Cheticamp
      Le Transport de Clare
      Municipality of Chester Community Wheels
      MusGo Rider
      MusGo Rider Valley-Sheet Harbour
      Queens County Transit
      Sou West Nova Transit
      Strait Area Transit
      Trans County Transportation Society
      Victoria County Transit
      West Hants Dial-a-Ride

  • Mandatory Mask Use

    View the Slide Deck from the Webinar with Dr. Strang.

    Q: When will masks be mandatory in indoor public places?
    A: Starting at 12:01 a.m. on July 31, non-medical masks are mandatory in most indoor public places.

    Q: What are the places where masks will be mandatory?
    A:  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

    Q:  Why are you doing this now? Why not at the beginning of the pandemic?
    A:  The evidence on non-medical masks has evolved through the pandemic, and our public health direction has evolved along with it. We have learned that they non-medical masks are effective, in combination with other core personal public health measures, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Before a second wave of arrives, we need to make mask wearing needs to be a habit for Nova Scotians.

    Q:  This is a very big change for businesses and workplaces. How is government helping them transition?
    A:  We are we are looking at ways to make sure people are able to access a mask regardless of their situation. We are also working on resources to help owners of affected public places to communicate that masks are mandatory in their spaces.

    Q:  What about people who can’t afford a mask or who forget theirs?
    A:  Many masks are very affordable, but we are looking at ways to make sure people are able to access a mask regardless of their situation.

    Q:  How will this be enforced? Are there fines for not wearing a mask?
    A:  We are taking a cooperative and positive approach to mandatory masking rather than an enforcement approach. We have confidence that the vast majority of Nova Scotians will do the right thing and wear one. People should also be aware that businesses have the right to refuse them entry or refuse to serve them if they don’t follow the rules, always with allowances for the small number of people with valid reasons for not wearing a mask.

    Q:  What happens if someone refuses to put on a mask or takes it off once they go inside? Can they be refused service or kicked out?
    A:  Businesses, workplaces, and other owners public places can develop their own policies and procedures. They can choose to refuse entry or service to people who are not following the rules.

    Q:  Does every single office worker need to wear a mask? What if you’re alone in your office with the door closed? What if your cubicle is 2 metres aware from the next one?
    A:  In an office building, masks are required in the common areas such as the lobby, elevators and hallways. Once you enter a private business’s space, masks are not mandatory under the public health order. A private business may set its own policies for mask use. Masks are mandatory in parts of offices where municipal or provincial government services are offered to the public. Municipalities and provincial departments may set their own policies for mask use in other parts of these offices.

    Q:  Are masks mandatory in lobbies, elevators and hallways of apartment and condo buildings?
    A:  No, you don’t need to wear a mask in common areas of apartment or condo buildings.

    Q:  What are common areas of university or college campuses where masks are required?
    A:  Masks are required in common areas that the public has access to like the library, student union building, and common areas of a faculty building. They are not required in classrooms, labs, offices, or residences.

    Q:  How can you wear a mask if you’re having a meal or a drink in a restaurant or bar?
    A:  You can remove your mask to eat and drink. At any other time in a restaurant, bar or other indoor public place where food is served, you must wear a mask – for example, waiting to be seated, going to the bathroom, and getting ready to leave.

    Q:  Do you need to wear a mask on a restaurant patio or at an outdoor eating establishment?
    A:  No, but you need to wear a mask if you have to pass through an indoor section of restaurant to reach the outdoor section.

    Q:  Do you need to wear a mask at an indoor church or community supper?
    A:  Yes, you could remove your mask to eat, but otherwise must keep it on while you are in this place.

    Q:  Do you have to wear a mask if you’re involved in a court proceeding?
    A:  Masks are not required in a courtroom but are required in common areas outside the actual courtroom.

    Q:  Isn’t it unsafe to wear a mask if you’re getting your heart rate up at the gym or during a sports practice?
    A: If you’re at an indoor public place and you’re doing a physical activity where a mask cannot be worn, you can remove your mask for the duration of the activity, but you must wear it at all other times in the facility.

    Q:  Doesn’t that mean you could remove your mask for just about any indoor sport or any physical activity at the gym?
    A:  There are all kinds of physical activities that you can do while wearing a mask and some where you cannot. People need to use common sense.

    Q: How can you wear a mask in a pool? Wouldn’t that be unsafe? If you can take it off to go in the pool, where you do you put it?
    A:  You are not required to wear a mask in the pool, but you must wear it at all other times in the facility. Managing how this is done is up to the facility.

    Q:  With the barber and cosmetology sector plans, clients can remove their masks for a beard trim or a facial. Will those services continue with mask removed? Or will these services no longer be allowed?
    A: People can remove their masks to get these services. This is addressed in the reopening plans for these types of businesses.

    Q:  Do you have to wear a mask through an entire performance or movie or bingo? What about eating snacks at the movies?
    A:  Yes, you must keep your mask on at these venues, but you can remove it while you are eating or drinking.

    Q:  When a person is presenting at a conference, they are typically on a stage or at the front of the room with more than 2 metres distance from the audience. Do they have to wear a mask?
    A:  Yes, the mask is still required.

    Q:  Does everyone at a wedding have to wear a mask? Including the bride and groom? What about for their wedding photos?
    A:  Masks can be temporarily removed for ceremonial reasons such a bride and groom during their marriage ceremony or wedding photos.

    Q:  If you’re only interacting with your family or close social group at a gathering or in a public place, can you remove your mask?
    A:  You must keep your mask on because when there are other people around, it can be difficult to ensure physical distancing between your group and others.

    Q:  If you’re trying on clothes in a fitting room in a store, do you have to wear a mask? What if it comes off when you’re changing?
    A:  You must wear your mask in the fitting room. If it comes off, put it back on.

    Q;  If you are trying on glasses frames, do you have to wear a mask? Wouldn’t the elastics around your ears get in the way of getting the right fit?
    A:  You must wear your mask. Optometrists have a plan for operating safely that addresses this situation.

    Q:  How do you receive communion at church if you have to wear a mask? Can you take it off for that?
    A:  Masks can be temporarily removed for ceremonial reasons such as communion.

    Q:  Can a business ask you to remove your mask for identification purposes?
    A:  Yes, businesses are allowed to ask and people are allowed to comply by momentarily removing their mask.

    Q:  Can you take your mask off in a government office to get your drivers license? What about a photography business to get a passport photo taken?
    A:  Yes, a government office/photography business will instruct you when it is safe and appropriate to remove your mask in order to obtain a photo for identification purposes. Physical distancing must be maintained while the photo is being taken.

    Q:  What if the environment is noisy and you can’t make yourself heard without taking off your mask?
    A:  You must wear your mask. If the environment is noisy, you can move to a quieter location to make yourself heard.

    Q:  If you are with people who, for various reasons, need to see your mouth moving while you speak, do you have to wear a mask?
    A:  If you are in one of the indoor public places listed in the public health order, you must wear your mask. There are window model masks available for purchase and also instructions on how to make one here.

    Q:  Do children have to wear masks?
    A:  Children under two are exempt, as well children aged two to four when their parent or caregiver cannot get them to wear a mask. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to help their children become comfortable with wearing a mask.

    Q:  Does this change the requirements you announced for schools?
    A:  This announcement does not change the Back to School Plan. Masks are not generally required within the public school classroom setting. High school students who go to different classrooms throughout the day need to wear masks in hallways. Some staff and students may choose to wear a mask at other times. Non-medical masks are required for children and bus drivers on public transportation including school buses.

    Q:  Are masks required in daycares and day camps?
    A:  Children are not required to wear a mask in a child care setting, although some families may choose for their child to wear a mask. Masks are not required at day camps where physical distancing can be maintained between cohorts. However, some staff and children may choose to bring and wear one.

    Q:  What are medical reasons for not wearing a mask?
    A:  There are very few valid medical reasons to not wear a mask. The Canadian Thoracic Society states that there is no evidence that wearing a mask worsens a chronic lung condition such as asthma or COPD. For some people with chronic breathing conditions or mental health conditions, wearing a mask can create anxiety. However, there are ways to overcome anxiety such as practicing wearing a mask for short periods of time at home. There are also some people with cognitive or developmental disabilities who are unable to wear a mask.

    Q:  Some people say wearing a mask can make you sick, like inhaling too much carbon dioxide or not getting enough oxygen. Is there any truth to that?
    A:  That is absolutely false. Other than children under two and people with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask, there is no health hazard associated with wearing one. Medical professionals and others wear masks all day, every day. There is no reason why the majority of Nova Scotians can’t wear one for shorter periods of time.

    Q:  Can you get a document to show proving that you have a medical reason for not wearing a mask?
    A:  We will not issue or ask for a medical certificate so please do not go to your doctor’s office asking for one. Please do not look for reasons to not wear a mask.
    Please be aware of a fake document that is circulating that suggests it is proof from public health officials that the bearer cannot wear a mask. No public health agency has authorized this document.

    Q:  What constitutes a non-medical mask? Could anything that covers the nose and mouth be accepted?
    A:  We encourage people to use a traditional non-medical mask. There are many local suppliers making and selling them, and while prices vary, some are quite economical. You can also make one with a bandana or similar piece of cloth folded in at least three layers of fabric. The Public Health Agency of Canada offers instructions.

    Q:  How do you properly wear a non-medical mask?
    A:  People should learn how to put on and take off a mask safely. Do not touch your mask when you are wearing it. Learn more here.

    Q:  What do you do with your mask while you’re not wearing it?
    A:  After wearing your mask, inspect it for tears or holes. If it’s damaged, put it in the garbage – please do not litter. When your reusable mask becomes damp or dirty, wash it with hot, soapy water and let it dry completely before wearing it again. You can include a cloth mask with other laundry. Store your mask in a clean place until you need to wear it again.

    Q:  Can you wear a face shield in place of a non-medical mask?
    A:  No, for the purposes of this new rule, a face shield cannot be worn instead of a non-medical mask. This is because a face shield protects the wearer’s eyes but it does not protect other people if the wearer coughs or sneezes. A face shield and mask can be worn together, but most Nova Scotians are not going to be in situations that warrant wearing both.

    Q:  If you’re wearing a mask, does that mean you don’t have worry about other public health measures?
    A:  No, masks need to be used as part of the package of personal protective measures: stay home if you feel unwell, wash or sanitize your hands often, use proper cough and sneeze etiquette, physically distance as much as possible, avoid touching your face, mouth, nose and eyes, limit the number of people you get together with, and clean high-touch surfaces and objects frequently.

    Q:  If I’m required to wear a mask in the workplace, who pays for it?
    A:  When an employer is requiring employees to wear a mask as a result of an order by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the employer is responsible to provide the equipment.

    Q:  Who do you complain to if you see people not following this rule?
    A:  People should not assume that a person is breaking the rules when they don’t know the facts of a situation. If you feel it’s important, you can take the issue to the owner of the public place. If the issue is not resolved, they can call the Safety Division at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

    Q:  Who does an employee complain to if customers or other employees aren’t following the rule?
    A:  An employee should bring the issue to his or her OHS committee if there is one, or to their employer. If the issue is not resolved, they can call the Safety Division at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

  • Mask Requirement for Taxi Drivers

    Q: I'm a Taxi Driver. Am I required to wear a mask?
    A: If you are a Driver with Casino, Satellite Taxi, or other, you are responsible for supplying passengers with masks as Drivers are considered self-employed. Drivers can order their own supply of masks through pperequest@novascotia.ca – you will need to identify in the email that you are a Taxi/Limo Driver and will be provided with a supply at no charge. There is no set time on when this will expire as the government is trying to do what they can to ensure that the public gets used to wearing masks

    Q: Do I need to implement the mask requirement if I have a barrier installed in my Taxi?
    A: Unless your barrier is a Protective Plexiglass Shield, masks must be worn by the Driver and Passenger as particles can still be in the air after the Passenger leaves the car.

  • Accommodation sector consultation with Dr. Robert Strang  June 15

    Q: What are your recommendations for cleaning hotel pools?
    A:Private hotel pools can be open and should follow the protocols put forth by HANS to Dr. Strang. Make sure you use Health Canada approved disinfectant products. These have been shown to kill viruses. Use your normal cleaning protocol on high-touch surfaces and enhance the frequency of your cleaning and sanitizing routines.

    Q: A few accommodations have showers in their fitness facilities. Can we make available for use?
    A: This was never a requirement to close down. This is about risk assessment; some requirements around opening these are ensuring you have protocols in place that manage their use. Manage the number of people using your fitness facilities, and frequency of cleaning them.

    View the approved Fitness Sector Plan that all fitness centres should follow to be open.

    Q: Cleaning guest rooms: Should we wait a specific amount of time before having guests in a room, before cleaning staff enter the room, and can staff enter rooms for those guests who stay more than one night?
    A: There are no protocols on this. You might want to wait around 30 minutes after the guest leaves the room to clean, as this is life span the virus can live in the air. For cleaning linen, your employees should minimize their contact in the room to reduce risk.

    Q: Will washing pillow covers suffice for killing the virus? Should furniture (like sofas) be steamed regularly, and if so, how often? Does steam kill the virus? Are there specific guidelines for disinfecting hot tubs?
    A: The virus would not soak into the pillow, so washing the pillowcase is sufficient. The virus tends to live longer on hard surfaces like metals and woods. Employees should focus more on cleaning common surfaces like countertops.

    Q: Bed and breakfast operations: What about shared washrooms and showers?
    A: Think about what protocols you could you put in place that controls the flow of people entering shared washroom and showers such as floor and wall signage. Increase the frequency of your cleaning protocols in between groups of people using the washroom.

    Q: Are there other specific guidelines for B&B guidelines?
    A: The guidelines for Bed and Breakfasts are available here.

    Q: Can playgrounds stay open?
    A: Originally, the protocols were focussed on municipal playgrounds that involved larger families. Dr. Strang doesn’t have an issue with private playgrounds opening to operate, as long as guests are informed to try to maintain 6 feet distance between others.

    Q: How long should we wait between use times for life jackets and other safety equipment?
    A: Before guests put on a floatation device (wet suit, flotation device) they should wash their hands (before and after use). The virus is not likely to persist beyond a few hours within an outdoor setting and with water present.

    Q: Should we have guests sign a document to ensure they will follow protocols?
    A: During registration, there should be a reminder that guests who do not feel well should not follow through on their reservation. This is a simple way to screen people to ensure those who are sick are staying away from others.

    Also, accommodation operations should keep a registry or logbook of their guests. This is helpful for the Public Health Agency of Canada and ensures rapid and efficient follow-up. If there is a COVID-19 positive individual, the process for the Public Health Agency of Canada is to interview this person and ask where they were when they were infectious to others, who else they were in contact with, and then the Agency would contact those people. If a guest was sick who was at the hotel, Public Health would want to know the meetings they attended, rooms they were at, the cleaning person within their room, for example. This facilitates the public health follow-up.

    Q: If someone is staying at an accommodation during their 14-day quarantine, how does management control their access if the guest is breaking the isolation protocol?
    A: There should be people on site that are managing this. However, someone who is isolating shouldn’t necessarily be at a hotel; they should be isolating where they are currently living. In some cases, there have been exceptions. If someone is breaking the public health act, then the local authorities should take over.

  • Marine sector consultation with Dr. Robert Strang  June 15

    Q: When should barriers replace physical distancing?
    A: If you can’t keep 6 ft apart, you create a barrier to prevent the spread of the virus. Barriers are most effective in those areas that have shorter term interaction like at cash registers.

    Q: If I’m selling tickets for tours with specific time slots, would this be considered an event and how does this affect gathering limits?
    There is no limit on numbers as long as you’re maintaining social distancing. Consider where the groups would gather, such as line-ups to attend the event, and place signage accordingly.

    Q:What are the recommendations for a day sailing boat with a maximum 6 guests?
    A: Masks don’t have to be mandatory, but operators could do this. Employees or the Captain should have a mask to protect others. This shows that the employer is taking appropriate steps to reduce the risk of spread.

    Q: If everyone on a boat wears a mask, could a boat operate at full capacity?
    A: Wearing a mask decreases risks but this does not mean you can take on extra risk in other areas, such as increasing capacity or removing social distancing.

    Q: Do barriers have to be approved for a boat?
    A: Not from a public health perspective. From an Operational Health and Safety perspective, you would not need approval but should demonstrate appropriate barrier standards. Think about the purpose of the barrier and its use if your guests cannot maintain social distancing.

    Q: What are the recommendations for cleaning and mask use on boats?
    A wet mask will decrease in effectiveness, but it is still effective to some extent. It’s necessary to clean common surfaces between one group of passengers to the next. Cleaning/Sanitization agents recommended are those Health Canada certified cleaning products.

    Q: Would face shields be effective for rafting?
    A: Think about what you are doing upfront to ensure those who are sick are not getting on boat in the first place. So, if customers do not feel well, advise them to refrain from the activity. An online registration form could include questions about their current health.

    Q: Is contact tracing required for operators?
    A: We recommend a registry or logbook to record all those who were there (names, dates, contact information). This substantially speeds up process to contact others who may have come into contact with the infected person.

    Q: What are the recommendations for uniforms or protective clothing such as full fledge floater suits?A; The virus is transmitted mostly by close contact (breathing, laughing, etc.) and does not live outdoors. In many situations, the water could wash the virus away. Dr. Strang advises that while there are no strict protocols on clothing, it is recommended that guests take part in hand washing before and after wearing protective clothing.

    Q: White River Rafting: What are the recommendations to keep the entertaining aspects of the experience?
    A: It’s easy to manage a small group of 8 or less people in one area. With a low risk of COVID-19 in the province, Dr. Strang is comfortable with the rafting business operating. Because of the close environment, it may be hard to maintain physical distancing, and if mask isn’t reasonable, there may be some increased risk of COVID-19. People taking part in this activity should be aware of their increased risk.

    Q: Are we permitted to have our vessel washrooms open?
    A: It is recommended that you do open your washroom facilities if trips last more than 30 minutes. It’s important to promote healthy hygiene by opening washrooms. With washrooms open, you will want to consider what you have in place that will facilitate hand washing, cleaning, alcohol-based wipes to wipe down the handles and other commonly used surfaces.

    Q: Where physical distancing is not possible, is PPE enough?
    A: PPE does not replace physical distancing but does reduce risk. It depends on the type of vessel. Plexi-glass barriers will not work on a Zodiac tidal bore, for example, but is. feasible on the Harbour Hopper.

    Q: When will boat vessel be opening?
    A: The open date for many boat vessels is July 1.

  • Essential Travel

    Q: Can I travel within province if for essential business?

    A: Essential travel does not preclude Nova Scotians travelling throughout Nova Scotia and companies can encourage inner-provincial travel.

    This question was answered during the May 25th call with Dr. Strang.

  • Group Gathering Requirements

    Q: When will the group gathering capacity be increased?

    A: Group gatherings are anticipated to incrementally increase between June and August based on health epidemiology targets. Possibly up to 50 by end of August.

    As of July 3 recognized businesses or organizations are able to hold events for up to 250 people outdoors. Indoor events are capped 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 200. Physical distancing protocols need to be in place for both scenarios.

    This question was answered during the May 25th call with Dr. Strang.

  • Regional Travel Bubble

    Q: Will there be discussion around a regional travel bubble in NS?

    A: A regional travel bubble is being considered in coming weeks (all dependent of continued flattening of virus).

    This question was answered during the May 25th call with Dr. Strang.

  • Re-opening Protocols

    Q: Will re-opening protocols be approved for all sectors and businesses?

    A: Re-opening protocols will not be approved for all sectors and businesses. The focus is on those sectors mandated to close.

    Restaurants and licenced liquor establishments are now able to operate at 100 per cent capacity and serve until midnight. Private campgrounds can also fully book their sites and public pools can reopen.

    This question was answered during the May 25th call with Dr. Strang.

  • Property Taxes

    Q: Will there be any deferral or adjustment of property taxes in NS?

    A: On April 8th, TIANS was advised that the Provincial Government has been asked to make a statement broadly around deferral of property tax. This would mitigate having municipalities potentially create a patchwork of figures and dates. At this time, HRM has proposed a 31 day deferral, while Cape Breton Municipality is proposing 90 days.

    The NS Federation of Municipalities is currently in discussion with Minister Porter to enact at least a 90 day deferral. Any potential decisions around this are not expected before mid April earliest and operators are urged to reach out to their local municipality to discuss any potential adjustment.

  • Property Taxes

    Q: Will there be any deferral or adjustment of property taxes in NS?

    A: On April 8th, TIANS was advised that the Provincial Government has been asked to make a statement broadly around deferral of property tax. This would mitigate having municipalities potentially create a patchwork of figures and dates. At this time, HRM has proposed a 31 day deferral, while Cape Breton Municipality is proposing 90 days.

    The NS Federation of Municipalities is currently in discussion with Minister Porter to enact at least a 90 day deferral. Any potential decisions around this are not expected before mid April earliest and operators are urged to reach out to their local municipality to discuss any potential adjustment.

  • Cancellation of Events

    Q: Has the Government made any call on suggesting the cancellation of events in the summer.

    A: It’s really up to each individual group to determine what is best for them and their organization. Public Health continues to advise everyone to monitor Public Health notifications and their advice. They encourage everyone to use that advice to make decisions for themselves.

    Advice for Organizations and Events: Check with your insurance company for specific information, suggestions and support as it relates to your specific organization/event.

    The federal government released a set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy. Some of the measures are aimed at supporting not-for-profit organizations. The federal government also has put together the information for those of you planning events or festivals
     
    Consider the following:

    1. You should stay up to date with the latest public health advice on COVID-19, which you’ll find at novascotia.ca/coronavirus
    2. You should ensure your event management and contingency plan is up to date and you have a cancellation, curtailment or postponement plan in place. If you need assistance, please reach out to your program officer.
    3. You should ensure your crisis communications strategy follows official advice as circumstances may change before or during your event.
  • UPDATE: Temporary Wage Subsidy

    Q: Is there a temporary wage subsidy for employers?

    A: The federal wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses hit by the new coronavirus pandemic is jumping up to 75 per cent, the prime minister announced on Friday. Trudeau also said the government will be offering a new Canada Emergency Business Account to provide loans of up to $40,000 to small and medium-sized businesses that will be interest-free for one year. Link here to view announcement.

  •  Businesses Allowed to Stay Open

    Q: I run an accommodation business – am I allowed to be open during this time? What are the expectations in terms of operating?

    A: If you are a NS business that was not mandated to close, you are able to operate as long as you meet the health protocols as identified.

    If you were not mandated to close the business is exempt from the five person maximum provided you can respect the social distancing guidelines and other requirements.

    This question was answered during the May 25th call with Dr. Strang.

  • International Travellers Requesting Accommodations.

    Q: I have calls from international travellers requesting accommodation for a couple of days. I’m very uncomfortable saying no to them. Is there any direction on how to handle such contacts?

    A: The 14-day self-isolation requirement for anyone outside the Country applies and you are within your rights. While difficult, the tourism industry must follow the protocols to stay safe. We are in the process of updating some FAQ and will be posting off the TIANS website.

  • Sending Visitors Back to Home Country

    Q: Is there a request from the Government (or any other organization) for foreign visitors to return to their home country?

    A: Yes. The Federal Government is banning International Travel and non-residents have been encouraged to return to their home Country (see link). International Students attending our post-secondary institutions have also been told to leave the Country.

    Source: Ius Laboris Canada Matthew Dinsdale & Clark LLP| Global HR Lawyers

  • Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

    Q: An employee has tested positive for COVID-19 – what does the employer do?

    A: The employee should not be permitted to return to the workplace until they are free of the COVID-19 virus. The current advice from health authorities is that all employees who worked closely with the infected employee should also be removed from the workplace for at least a 14-day period to ensure the infection does not spread in the workplace. What constitutes “closely” will depend on the workplace and the nature of interactions between employees. Employers should err on the side of caution. Employers should also take reasonable measures to protect the confidentiality, to the extent possible, to protect the identity of any employee who contracts COVID-19.

  • Business is Slow, Not Enough Work

    Q: Business is slow, and I don't have enough work for my employees. What can I do? Source: The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

    A: Unfortunately, this is likely to be the case for many businesses. The government has pledged $10 billion in a credit facility administered by the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. There are also steps you can take to determine your business’ future:

    • Review your finances: Look at your revenue vs your expenses – are you able to meet your basic expenses? Speak to your accountant/bookkeeper about your options and whether it makes sense to stay open, pause your business, shut down until an opportunity in the market arises, or close your business.

    • Make a Business Continuity Plan: Weathering the storm will be difficult, make sure you have a plan as to how to do it. Restarting a business that has been suspended will take thought and time to bring back to its former level. Are there other options for your business to stay open? Can you find new suppliers? Can you change your business model to continue to serve your clients (i.e. provide delivery of food instead of having sit-in customers)

    • Speak to your commercial insurance provider: You may be entitled to business interruption insurance payments. Call your provider to double check your entitlement.

    • Communicate with your employees twice a week: Let employees know what safety measures/policies you are putting in place to keep them safe.
    Post educational posters and share safety tips.

    Ensure that there is a way for employees to notify you if they are sick whether that be through health and safety representative/committee or though their manager.
    Talk to employees about their job security/health status/income options. Are they entitled to employment insurance.

  • Temporary Layoffs

    Q: Can an employer temporarily lay off employees?

    A: Yes, but there is a real risk that any unilateral lay off of employees may be treated as a termination of employment under employment standards legislation or the common law. There are also statutory exemptions in many jurisdictions for unforeseeable circumstances, which may include a pandemic or government-ordered closure of a business. A number of provincial governments are proposing amendments to statutory leave guarantees to address the impact of COVID-19. 

    A: Lay-off provisions are a common feature of collective agreements and the conditions of lay-off and/or recall for unionized employees will depend upon the language of the collective agreement.

    A manager or other non-union employee generally may only be laid off temporarily if the employment contract provides for the possibility of temporary lay-off, if temporary layoffs are common in the industry, or if the employee agrees to the layoff. In most industries, temporary layoffs are uncommon and are not a feature of the employment contract. In those circumstances, a temporary layoff without the employee’s agreement may trigger a constructive dismissal.  In the current environment there may be an argument available for exceptions based upon circumstances that are unforeseeable and beyond the employer’s control.  Employers are strongly advised to obtain legal advice before laying off non-union employees.

     

    Read MacLean's Canada Layoff Tracker.

  • Forced Government Closure

    Q: What happens to our employees if we are ordered to close our business by the government?

    A: If the employer is ordered to close by health or other authorities, employers may be able lay off employees without liability under provincial employment standards legislation or the common law. Each case will be dependent on its own facts.

  • Layoffs & Benefit Plans

    Q: If we layoff our employees, are they still covered under our benefit plans?

    A: This will depend on the language of the benefit plan document. Employers must review their policies with their benefit plan provider and advice employees of any limitations or restrictions in coverage.

  • Closing For Safety

    Q: Can an employer close its business for safety reasons due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

    A: An employer must ensure a safe working environment. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to close a business location for occupational health and safety

    reasons. An employer’s obligation for providing notice or pay in lieu of notice to employees in the event of a workplace closure will be governed by the specific facts of each case.

  • Compensation Requirements - Off Work With No Symptoms.

    Q: If an employer keeps an employee without COVID-19 symptoms out of work, is there a requirement to compensate the employee?

    A: This will depend on the circumstances, including if the employee has travelled, the nature of the specific workplace, alternatives available (i.e. working from home) and any potential contract or collective agreement requirements. While each situation will have to be assessed individually, there will be circumstances where holding an employee out of service, without pay, may be deemed reasonable. There is also the potential for reputational damage should it become publicized that employers are forcing employees to remain away from the workplace without pay. Employers may also wish to consider whether the absence of compensation will reduce the efficacy of preventative measures in the workplace. If they will not be compensated, employees may not self-assess as critically as required or may not report issues or concerns.

  • Compensation Requirements - Employee with COVID-19 

    Q What if an employee has COVID-19 and cannot work?

    A: Where an employee contracts COVID-19 and is unable to work, an employer must grant any applicable legislative leave to the employee, in addition to meeting any sick leave obligations outlined in employment agreements or collective agreements.

    If the employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, there may be additional reporting obligations under workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety legislation.

  • Fire Employee with COVID-19

    Q: Can an employer fire an employee if they contract COVID-19?

    A: No. Employers may not terminate an employee or otherwise discriminate against an employee due to physical disability (which includes certain illnesses) under human rights legislation.

  • Refusal to Work

    Q: What if employees refuse to work because they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace?

    A: Employers have a positive obligation to take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of employees under occupational health and safety legislation. Where an employee has reason to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety (which is not an inherent or normal condition of their work), the employee may be able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers can expect to see work refusals from employees based on:

    • a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 in the workplace;
    • a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee’s immediate family or other close contact;
    • the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 from contractors, customers or clients depending on the nature of the workplace or the people it serves;
    • concerns from employees who are particularly vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, underlying medical condition) not wishing to report to work; or
    • employees with a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 by travelling to or attending work.

    Whether or not a wok refusal based on the above or other grounds is reasonable will depend on individual circumstances. In the event of a work refusal, the employer must respond in accordance with occupational health and safety legislation, which response will include an investigation into the concerns and, if appropriate, adopting measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger. This investigation will, in large part, be based upon the current scientific understanding of COVID-19 and the specific facts in the individual workplace. No reprisal for properly exercising a health and safety right may occur.

    Employers should also understand that, where the regulator is required to resolve the work refusal, the way the regulator does so could be different than might ordinarily occur. The determination of the regulator might be made without meeting with the workplace parties in person or there may be other steps or measures implemented by the regulator, for the protection of its staff, that are unusual.

  • Discipline for Work Refusal

    Q: Can employees be disciplined for a work refusal?

    A: Provincial occupational health and safety legislation generally provides that employers cannot dismiss, discipline, or intimidate employees for properly exercising a health and safety right. An employer may be justified in imposing discipline if the work refusal has been exercised in bad faith. However, the ability to discipline will depend on the circumstances of the work refusal and the language in the applicable work refusal right. An employer considering discipline for a refusing worker should do so after consultation with counsel in all but the clearest of cases.

  • Refusing Travel

    Q: Can employees refuse travel as part of their job duties?

    A: That will depend on the nature of the employee, the specific job and the travel destination. For example, employees over the age of 65 may not wish to travel at all. If there is a legitimate work refusal for safety reasons, occupational health and safety legislation will govern the resolution of any work refusal.

  • Request to Work Remotely 

    Q: Can an employer require an employee to work remotely?

    A: In the current climate, a request that employees work remotely will likely be seen as a reasonable measure to encourage social distancing, given the advice of federal and provincial government authorities.

  • Monitoring Work Remotely 

    Q: How do we monitor employees working remotely?

    A: Employers should have a written policy which governs employees who are required to work remotely and addresses such things as working hours, productivity, remote meeting protocols, BYOD issues, etc.

  • Replacement Workers

    Q: What if an employer needs to replace sick employees on a temporary basis to operate?

    A: An employer can hire employees on a temporary basis. An employer may also ask healthy employees to work additional hours, provided the employer is complying with legislative provisions regarding overtime and excessive hours of work. Employers in unionized workplaces should be cognizant of collective agreement and provincial labour laws applying to unionized workplaces. Employers should have already assessed how many employees they require to operate effectively and what will happen if a large number of employees are unable to attend work. If you have not done so already, do so now.

  • Buying Personal Protective Equipment

    Q: Do employers have to buy personal protective equipment for employees?

    A: Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment relative to the expected duties of the employee and the risks in the workplace. If employees run the risk of becoming infected at work because of the work they perform, the employer must provide personal protective equipment. As of March 12, 2020, public health authorities are not generally recommending personal protective equipment (e.g. masks, gloves) or any other physical protective devices. The preventative measures being advised are hand, respiratory, and environmental hygiene and social distancing. These recommendations suggest that these measures are generally reasonable for most workplaces. However, if you have an employee who is vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, or underlying medical condition) the obligations to this employee could be different. Precisely what steps may be reasonable to protect the vulnerable worker are likely to be determined on a case-by-case basis and involve advice from public health and/or medical officials. Employers may not know if a vulnerable employee is in the workplace. As part of workplace communications about COVID-19, employers should prompt workers with individual risk concerns to raise them with the employer.

  • Wearing Masks at Work

    Q: Can we prevent an employee from wearing masks at work?

    A: Yes, unless the use of personal protective equipment, such as masks, is a condition of employment or otherwise required for the employee to safely perform their duties.

  • Workers Compensation for Sick Employees

    Q: If an employee contracts COVID-19 at work – are they covered by workers’ compensation?

    A: Possibly, but the assessment of whether the employee is entitled to compensation would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Workers compensation boards will have to assess whether COVID-19 is an occupational disease: e.g. it was caused by and arose out and in the course of employment.

  • Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

    A: Will EI offer sickness benefits to Canadians?

    Q: Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for EI sickness benefits. Presently, the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits has been waived for claimants who have been quarantined, as has the requirement for a medical certificate.

  • Income Support - Not Qualified for EI Sickness Benefits

    Q: What does income support look like for workers who do not qualify for EI sickness benefits?

    A: The measures include an Emergency Care Benefit, which will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who do not qualify for EI sickness benefits, workers caring for a family member with COVID-19 and parents who are unable to work due to childcare obligations. Applicants will be required to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements and to re-confirm eligibility every two weeks. It is anticipated that this Benefit will commence in April 2020.

  • Emergency Support Benefit

    Q: What if my workers aren’t eligible for EI?

    A: The Emergency Support Benefit will provide payments to workers who are unemployed and are not eligible for EI. At this time, the details of the amount payable to workers have not been released. It is anticipated that this Benefit will commence in April 2020.