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By Nichola Saminather
TORONTO, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Bank of Nova Scotia will pause its plan for employees working remotely to return to its Toronto head office starting on Jan. 17, Canada's third-largest lender said on Monday, as concerns mount about the Omicron coronavirus variant.
"Based on the Government of Ontario’s latest guidance, Scotiabank is pausing its plans to begin a phased and gradual return to office for employees working remotely, and will reassess timing in the new year," the bank said in a statement.
When Scotiabank employees do begin to return to offices, the move will be staggered for different groups, with the majority of head-office employees working in a hybrid model, according to the statement.
Canadian banks have been more willing than global banks, including U.S. counterparts, to delay the return to offices of remote workers amid pandemic uncertainties including, most recently, the emergence of Omicron.
Canada may see a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in coming days due to community spread of the Omicron variant, the country's chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said on Monday.
Scotiabank was the only one of Canada's biggest banks to announce a specific return-to-office date, with most of its rivals saying simply that they are monitoring the situation and anticipate a broad return to offices in early 2022.
In contrast, some global banks have made it easier for employees to get COVID-19 booster shots but have been reluctant to reverse efforts to get staff who had been working from home back into offices.
All of Canada's five largest lenders have required employees to register their vaccination status to return to their premises.
Most of them, including Scotiabank, have said they will allow regular testing to enable unvaccinated employees to work on their premises, but declined to say if that would change following the Canadian government's statement it would make vaccination mandatory across all federally regulated workplaces from early 2022.
(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Peter Cooney)