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COVID-19 Employee FAQ (updated February 12, 2021)

12 Feb 2021

Last updated: February 12, 2021

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 November 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 (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html) 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 (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html):

  • 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 (https://www.hrmmatters.ca/coronavirus) which can be accessed from any device (personal or work), printed and posted in municipal facilities, and linked to from the intranet (http://intranet.halifax.ca/coronavirus/). 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 (https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/occupational%20health%20and%20safety.pdf) 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 the Halifax Regional Municipality protecting its employees? (updated February 12, 2021)

  • 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:
    • Beginning January 25, employees who were mandated to work from home, based on the CAO’s email directive of November 23, 2020, can return to worksites in the same scheduled, reduced capacity manner as was in effect prior to the directive being issued;
    • Until further notice, in-person training, including corporate training, not directly linked to maintaining service delivery has been suspended;
    • In-person meetings should not be conducted unless essential for operational purposes;
    • Requests for business travel outside of Nova Scotia will not be approved; and
    • Employees who have travelled from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island into Nova Scotia, or, are sharing any living space with someone who has travelled into Nova Scotia or is returning to Nova Scotia from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island for non-essential travel needs to self-isolate.
    • People who arrived or had visitors from Newfoundland and Labrador from January 27, 2021 to February 9, 2021 should get tested immediately and consider a second test five to seven days later. People who were in Newfoundland and Labrador should self-isolate while waiting for the first test result. People can book a test at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en. The Province has stated that you should self-isolate if you have been to Newfoundland and Labrador, not if you have had visitors from Newfoundland and Labrador. Testing is recommended in either scenario.

7. As an employee, what are my responsibilities in the context of COVID-19? (updated February 10, 2021)

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 the Halifax Regional Municipality. 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 (https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/occupational%20health%20and%20safety.pdf) 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.

To avoid spreading the virus to colleagues and clients, employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 (https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/) have a duty to stay at home as long as they present symptoms, or as long as directed by their doctors.

The municipality is in alignment with current Public Health guidelines and will bring attention to important updates, such as Dr. Strang’s most recent direction regarding travel guidance and restrictions (https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/travel/).

Public Health advises you are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days or as directed by Public Health if you:

  • have been referred for COVID-19 testing by Public Health, a COVID-19 self-assessment or 811
  • are waiting for your COVID-19 test results, unless Public Health has advised otherwise
  • have tested positive for COVID-19
  • have been told by Public Health that you may have been exposed and need to self-isolate, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19
  • have travelled from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island into Nova Scotia, even if you don't have symptoms
  • are sharing any living spaces with someone who has travelled into Nova Scotia or returning to Nova Scotia from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island for non-essential travel (everyone in the home where the traveller is self-isolating needs to self-isolate)

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 (http://intranet.halifax.ca/BusinessUnits/HumanResources/LabourRelations/CollectiveAgrrement.html) and official policies (http://intranet.halifax.ca/Policies/Index.html). 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 NS 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 (https://novascotia.ca/lae/healthandsafety/docs/YourRightsandResp-en.pdf) providing 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 November 25)

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you must stay home. Contact your supervisor/manager and tell them you are sick. Review Find out if you need a Covid Test (https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en) to use the self-serve tools to schedule your COVID-19 test, or request a call-back from Public Health.

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 municipal 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 sick time “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? (updated November 25)

Please go to the online assessment tool at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en and follow their instructions. 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? (updated November 25)

Please go to the online assessment tool at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en and follow their direction.

If Public Health advises that other members of your household must stay home as well, you will have to remain at home. If it is possible for you to work from home and your manager/supervisor has instructed you to do so, you should work from home.

If Public Health advises that other members of your household do not need to stay home, and your manager/supervisor has instructed you to work from home, you should do so. If your manager/supervisor has instructed you to report to your usual work location, do so and continue to follow the health and safety measures in place to help reduce the spread of the virus.

If you need to stay home because you do not have childcare options, you should speak with your supervisor/manager to discuss your work arrangements.

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

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 casual 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/supervisor 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 November 13, 2020)

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 physical distancing to the extent possible. This means keeping a six-foot (two metre) distance from others – if and when possible.

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

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.

22. What happens if an employee left for travel outside of Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island after the January 8, 2021 CAO directive to self-isolate upon return was issued. (updated February 10, 2021)

After February 10, 2021, the employee will not be paid and must draw from personal leave banks, not including sick leave.

If the employee entered Nova Scotia from Newfoundland and Labrador prior to February 10, 2021, was required to self-isolate and operationally able to work from home, they would seek management direction to do so during their isolation period.

If the employee entered Nova Scotia from Newfoundland and Labrador prior to February 10, 2021, was required to self-isolate and the manager was unable to instruct them to work from home, the employee would be paid approved leave with pay for the duration of the 14-calendar day isolation period as directed by Public Health.

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 November 13, 2020)

For further information on self-isolation protocols, please visit the Public Health website at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/#self-isolate.

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 travelled outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island? (updated February 10, 2021)

If you are living or staying with someone who has travelled from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island for non-essential reasons, everyone in the home where the traveller is self-isolating needs to self-isolate. The day the traveller arrives counts as the first day of their 14-day self-isolation.

If you are living or staying with someone who has travelled into Nova Scotia from Newfoundland and Labrador from the period of January 27, 2021 to February 9, 2021, you should get tested immediately and consider a second test five to seven days later. The Province has stated that self-isolation is not required if you have had visitors from Newfoundland and Labrador during this period.

Domestic rotational workers (like Alberta oil workers) are individuals who live in Nova Scotia and travel to work in another Canadian province or territory on a regular schedule (up to 4 weeks home at a time). Domestic rotational workers need to self-isolate for the period of time they’re in the province (up to 14 days) and follow the Health Protection Act Order and the Directive Under the Authority of the Chief Medical Officer of Health – COVID-19 Exceptions for Domestic Rotational Workers. Household members don’t need to self-isolate unless they become unwell. https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/COVID-19-Directive-on-Exceptions-for-Domestic-Rotational-Workers.pdf.

People who must travel for work that cannot be done virtually and do not meet the criteria for rotational workers are now recognized as necessary travel. This does not require the entire household to self-isolate along with the traveler as long as a strict protocol for shared spaces is followed.

Employees who have concerns can refer to https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/travel/

and 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 (http://intranet.halifax.ca/BusinessUnits/HumanResources/WAHToolKit.html) toolkit on the intranet. This is only accessible if you are using a municipal device and have access to the 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 online 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 (http://intranet.halifax.ca/BusinessUnits/HumanResources/TrainingDevelopment.html) page or by contacting MyHR@halifax.ca or 902.490.6145 and select the Training option from the menu.

32. What if I have been at an exposure site and have been told to self-isolate? (added November 25)

Please speak with your manager/supervisor.

Please go to the Public Health online assessment tool at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en and follow their instructions. If you are not required to self-isolate, your manager/supervisor will instruct you to either work from home or report to your usual work location, as operationally feasible.

If you are required to self-isolate, and your manager/supervisor was unable to instruct you to work from home, you will be paid approved leave with pay for the duration of the 14-calendar day isolation period as directed by Public Health.

If you become symptomatic at any time during your isolation period, your pay would switch to sick leave for the duration of your illness.

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