Bank of Nova Scotia plans to start a phased return-to-office plan for headquarters employees who are still working remotely on Jan. 17, marking the first of Canada’s largest banks to set a specific date for a broad return. 

The return will be staggered for different groups, and the majority of head-office employees will be working in a hybrid model, spokesman Clancy Zeifman said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. All employees at Toronto-based Scotiabank will be required to follow the bank’s mandatory vaccination policy.

Canada’s banks have kept the majority of their headquarters employees working remotely as the country has maintained many of its pandemic safety measures into the fall. Scotiabank’s target date for a broad return was selected based on guidance from medical advisers and in consultation with the government, Zeifman said.

“Recognizing that one size does not fit all, different groups will have different considerations regarding which activities should be conducted in person and which can be done virtually,” he said.

Scotiabank, Canada’s third-largest lender by total assets, has been offering a voluntary, hybrid working model for senior leaders and select teams in the Toronto area since Oct. 1, Zeifman said, noting that many branch and operations workers have remained on-site throughout the pandemic. 

Canada’s other large banks have had some portion of their workforces back in the office, but have yet to publicly set a firm date for a large-scale return. Most of Royal Bank of Canada’s 61,000 employees in Canada are still working from home, while branch workers and others in critical roles have remained on-site, spokesman Rafael Ruffolo said in an emailed statement last week.

The bank, Canada’s second-largest by total assets, is “taking a gradual, measured approach” to returning employees to offices and allowing different businesses, functions and regions to determine the arrangements that fit their needs while ensuring that employees will get at least four weeks’ notice before their return, Ruffolo said.

Here are the other big Canadian banks’ plans:

  • Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s largest by assets, doesn’t plan a broader return of workers to its offices before next year, according to an emailed statement Wednesday.
  • At Bank of Montreal, some employees returned to the office in June and others came back this fall, the bank said without providing specific figures. The timetable for the remaining employees to return will vary based on business needs and local public health guidance, spokesman Paul Gammal said in an emailed statement last week.
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said the majority of its employees who are working remotely will return on a hybrid basis in early 2022. The model will work to blend the benefits of in-person time with the flexibility and productivity of remote work, spokesman Tom Wallis said in an emailed statement last week. About a third of CIBC’s workers across its network have been on-site throughout the pandemic, Wallis said.
  • National Bank of Canada, which is based in Montreal and has significant operations in Toronto, currently allows a maximum of 30 per cent of its employees to be in its corporate offices at a time, and about 15 per cent to 20 per cent of workers are there most days, according to Danny Dery, the bank’s vice president of employee experience. The in-office limit will be lifted to 50 per cent by the end of this month, and the bank is evaluating a possible large-scale return early next year, he said earlier this week.