COVID-19 - Employee FAQ

17 Mar 2020
Last updated: September 18, 2020


ORIGINAL PUBLICATION: March 18, 2020. Items added or amended since the original publication date are noted.

A Province wide State of Emergency was declared March 22, 2020.

1. Where can I learn more about COVID-19? (updated March 25)

As this situation continues to change quickly, you’re encouraged to check the following sites for accurate up-to-date information:


2. What can I do to avoid getting this virus?

Public service employees should follow the advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the general population.

Employees can play an active role in staying healthy and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Follow these simple steps recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • cough or sneeze into your sleeve and not your hands; and
  • stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.

3. How will work-related information and updates be communicated?

The CAO will be sending regular all staff communications by email to keep employees informed as the situation continues to evolve. These updates will be shared on the Employee Hub which can be accessed from any device (personal or work), printed and posted in municipal facilities, and linked to from the intranet. Business unit leaders/managers/supervisors will also be responsible for sharing frequent updates with their teams.

Employees can also email MyHR@halifax.ca or call 902.490.6145 if they are unable to access the updates or have further questions.


4. Where can I seek guidance regarding workplace risk of exposure to the COVID-19?

Employees who are concerned about their health and safety should consult with their manager to discuss their concerns.


5. Who is responsible for employees' occupational health and safety?

The Nova Scotia Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act is based on the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). Under the IRS, since all “workplace parties” influence what a workplace is like, they must all share responsibility for making the workplace safer and healthier to the extent of their authority and ability to do so.

As an example:

  • Employers shall take every precaution that is reasonable in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace. This is achieved through specific duties under the Act.
  • Employees, while at work, shall take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect the employee’s own health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace. This is also achieved through specific duties under the Act.

Check your Health & Safety Communication Board in your workplace for a paper copy.


6. How is Halifax Regional Municipality protecting its employees?

  • The municipality is providing information to its employees on how to protect themselves against COVID-19 by relaying public health information provided by Nova Scotia’s department of Health and Wellness and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Enhanced cleaning is occurring at municipal facilities, including the installation of hand sanitization stations.
  • The municipality is following the province’s advice to implement efforts to promote social distancing. This includes, but is not limited to:
    - Employees who can work from home are directed to do so;
    - Non-essential gatherings are being postponed;
    - Requests for business travel outside of Nova Scotia will not be approved; and
    - Employees who have travelled to a state, province or country where there have been
    confirmed COVID-19 cases, are directed to self-isolate for 14 days following the trip and not report to work.


7. As an employee, what are my responsibilities in the context of COVID-19? ( updated April 20)

If an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they must immediately notify their supervisor/manager to ensure all safety protocols are activated as quickly as possible.

Employees have the responsibility to inform themselves by consulting information provided by health authorities and by HRM. They are responsible for following management's directions regarding reporting to work and workplace health procedures in the context of the COVID-19.

The NS OH&S Act outlines precautions and duties for all employees regardless of their position in the organization. Employees' duties include, among others:

  • Using safety equipment provided to them;
  • Complying with all instructions from the employer concerning the health and safety of employees; and
  • Cooperating with any person carrying out a duty set out in the NS OH&S Act.

While at work, employees must also report to the employer anything in a workplace that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of employees, or other persons granted access to the workplace by the employer.

Employees are responsible to advise if they’ve travelled to a location the Canadian government has assessed as being “at-risk” for exposure to COVID-19 since March 13, 2020.

To avoid spreading the virus to colleagues and clients, employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, and difficulty breathing) have a duty to stay at home as long as they present symptoms, or as long as directed by their doctors.


8. What are my rights as an employee?

Employees have specific rights related to working conditions and leave provisions that are outlined in collective agreements and official policies. If employees require assistance in understanding these provisions, they should talk to their manager/supervisor or their union representative.

In addition, employees have three specific rights under the Nova Scotia OH&S Act, in relation to their health and safety in the workplace:

  • the right to know;
  • the right to participate; and
  • the right to refuse dangerous work.

The Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education created a brochure Your Rights, Responsibilities, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act containing general information on the NS OH&S Act. The three rights mentioned above are explained.


9. Are there resources to help with the increased anxiety that myself or a colleague may be experiencing?

Under circumstances such as these, it is natural to experience different levels of anxiety. Employees may wish to speak to their manager/supervisor, who will be able to advise them on what services are available to help them.

Full-time employees and their direct family members can access Homewood Health’s Employee and Family Assistance Program at 902-466-3327 or 1-800-663-1142

Members of the Halifax Regional Police Association (HRPA) may contact their EFAP coordinator at 902-430-8295 or 902-430-8296.

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) may contact their FFAP coordinator at 902-490-6271 or 902-237-9087.


10. What if I have symptoms consistent with COVID-19? (updated September 18)

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you must stay home. Contact your supervisor/manager and tell them you are sick. Review Public Health information regarding when to contact 811. https://when-to-call-about-covid19.novascotia.ca/en


11. What if I test positive for COVID-19? (updated April 17)

Follow the direction in the Order of the Chief Medical Officer of Public Health. https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/health-protection-act-order-by-the-medical-officer-of-health.pdf Please contact your supervisor/manger to advise you are sick as you would at any other time. When you recover and feel well enough to return to work, please contact HRM Workplace Health at 902-490.6541.


12. What if I test negative for COVID-19 but I still feel unwell? (March 25)

If you have been tested and it has been confirmed you do not have COVID-19 but you do not feel well enough to come to work, please contact your supervisor/manager to advise you are sick, as you would at any other time.


13. What if I had been sick with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, but now I feel well enough to return to work? (April 8)

Please contact HRM Workplace Health at 902-490-6541.


14. Will these absences count as sick time hours or a sicktime “occurrence” under the Attendance Support Policy?

We will not include any sick leave taken during the COVID-19 pandemic in future attendance reporting.


15. What if my child has COVID-19 symptoms and has to stay home from school or daycare? (added Sept 18)

Please contact 811 and follow their direction. Employees should then speak with your supervisor/manager to discuss their work arrangements.

16. What if my child has been told to stay home from school or daycare due to a shutdown or potential exposure at the school or daycare? (added Sept 18)

Please contact 811 and follow their direction. Employees should then speak with your supervisor/manager to discuss their work arrangements.


17. What if I live with someone who works in health care?

Currently, no directive has been issued by Nova Scotia Public Health requiring individuals who reside with a heath care professional to self-isolate. Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.


18. Are there any impacts to how temporary, part-time and casual employees are being paid? (updated April 17)

Layoff notices have been issued to some temporary, part-time and causual employees. We will continue to evaluate the situation and provide additional information as it becomes available.


19. Do I have the right to refuse to work for health and safety reasons? (Mar 25)

The health, safety and well-being of municipal employees and residents is our top priority. Municipal employees will be expected to report to work unless advised otherwise by their manager based on the advice of health authorities. It is the manager's discretion to consider requests for alternative working arrangements subject to operational requirements. Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.

Public safety workers, including police officers and firefighters, are required by Occupational, Health, and Safety legislation to report to work and cannot refuse to work because: such refusal would put the life, health, or safety of the public at risk; and risk is inherent in the work of these employees.


20. Do I have the right to refuse to attend meetings and other workplace gatherings if I suspect that I could risk being infected with COVID-19? (updated July 3)

Employees are responsible for following their management's directions regarding reporting to work and workplace health procedures in the context of COVID-19.

Employees who are reporting to their usual work location are asked to exercise safe social distancing to the extent possible. This means avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, greeting one another with a wave or elbow instead of a handshake or hug, and keeping a six-foot (two metre) distance from others – if and when possible.

Managers can consider alternatives to meetings and gatherings such as teleconferencing, MS Teams and Skype.



21. What can I do if my work involves contact with customers (i.e. residents/visitors/clients)?

The municipality is working with business units to adhere to the most recent guidance from public health officials. All designated services including Halifax Transit, 311, Fire, and Police – are operational and adhering to the most updated guidance and precautions from health officials.

As of Tuesday, March 17, all municipally-owned recreation centres are closed.

As of Wednesday, March 18, all municipal Customer Service Centres, including services provided at these locations by Planning & Development, are closed to the public.

As of Wednesday, March 18, the Youth Live Enviro Depot is closed to the public.


22. What happens if an employee left for travel outside of the Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland/Labrador) after the July 3rd CAO directive to self-isolate upon return was issued. (updated July 3)

The employee will not be paid and must draw from personal leave banks, not including sick leave.


23. Can I cancel my scheduled vacation leave and reschedule later? (March 25)

Employees who want to cancel and reschedule previously approved vacation leave are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor.


24. What does it mean to self-isolate? (updated April 8)

Self-isolation means:

  • avoid work, school or other public areas;
  • limit contact with people you live with, if you have symptoms;
  • use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if possible, if you have symptoms;
  • make plans to have groceries and other supplies delivered;
  • avoid anyone with chronic conditions, compromised immune system or older adults;
  • do not have visitors to your home;
  • do not use public transit/taxi;
  • Complete the Public Health on-line questionnaire to determine if you should call 811.
Further information on self-isolation protocols are available from Public Health.


25. What if I am responsible for the care of a high-risk individual?

Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.


26. What if I live with someone who has recently traveled out of the country?

Currently, no directive has been issued by the Nova Scotia Health Authority requiring individuals who reside with someone who has traveled out of the country to self-isolate. Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.


27. What if I do not meet the meet quarantine /self-isolation requirements but I’m still choosing to not come to work? Am I required to use personal leave?

Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.


28. I have a health consideration(s)/health condition and cannot work from home but feel I’m at enhanced risk for day to day exposure in public interactions - travelling to work, working with others, etc. Am I required to come in?

Employees who have concerns are asked to speak to their manager/supervisor to discuss their work arrangements.


29. I have been given approval to work from home. Are there any resources or tools to assist me in getting things set up and working properly? (updated March 25)

You can locate the Working from Home toolkit on the HRM intranet. This is only accessible if you are using an HRM device and have access to the HRM intranet. If you require additional assistance, please contact MyHR@halifax.ca or 902.490.6145 and select the Training option from the menu.


30. Is there a plan in place to provide laptops/technology or employees who could work from home but are not currently set up to do so?

Please do not contact the ICT Helpdesk to request laptops or other equipment to facilitate work from home options. Our partners in ICT are currently assessing the need for laptops and remote access and are determining priorities based on service continuity.


31. Are there any on-line learning opportunities I can take part in?

Employees can access free on-line learning through Lynda.com. Information on how to access this site is located on the Human Resources Learning & Development page or by contacting MyHR@halifax.ca or 902.490.6145 and select the Training option from the menu.

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