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COVID-19: British Columbia Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

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Reopening the economy

When is the start of the first phase of reopening the economy in British Columbia?

The Province of British Columbia announced its Four-Phase plan, with phase one, beginning May 6, 2020. No additional sectors of the economy are open in phase one. Phase Two will begin 2 to 4 weeks after Phase One.

Which sectors in British Columbia are currently allowed to open?

Sectors allowed to open include:

Non-essential businesses (with the exception of personal services, in-dining restaurants, liquor primary establishments, bars, nightclubs, and venues/areas of large gatherings [50+ individuals]


Law enforcement, public safety, first responders and emergency response personnel

Vulnerable population service providers

Critical infrastructure, construction



Food and agriculture service providers

Non-essential businesses

K-12: online and in-class learning

Childcare for essential workers

What do I need to know before I can reopen my business?

The British Columbia government is working with WorkSafe BC, along with industry associations to develop safety guidelines for specific industries. Visit the WorkSafe BC webpage on industry specific information, or contact our Business Resources to inquire if your sector has any specific guidelines.

If I am reopening my business, does that mean the threat of COVID-19 is over?

No, in order to reduce exposure, you will need to follow your sectoral guidelines that ensure the safety of your employees and general public that your business comes in contact.

I am not on the initial list of businesses that can open, when can I open my business?

The British Columbia government released BC’s Restart Plan on May 6, 2020. It outlines a Four-Phase process to reopen British Columbia. Each phase will be monitored by having a two-to-four-week assessment prior to shifting to next phase. Each phase will release the new set of workplaces, public spaces, and gatherings that can be open/available.  

Are there any fines for opening my business, if it is not considered essential or if it has not been reopened by government?

In BC, businesses who operate against provincial orders can be fined up to $50,000 by the province, and another $50,000 by their municipality.

Employment Standards Act

My business can be open, how do I re-call my employees?

Provide employee with as much notice as you can. You can send a registered letter to your employee letting them know the date of their next shift, hours, along with any relevant information they need such as a contact person they can reach out to, like a supervisor, if they have any questions or concerns. It is recommended that you recall them via some sort of written text, or phone call, so that you have evidence of your attempt to recall, and/or their acceptance or refusal.

My business is financially unstable, can I reduce my employees’ wages when they return to work?

You are required to give proper notice to employees prior to changing any terms and conditions, such as reducing working hours, pay or entitlements that you have promised in a job description or letter of offer. Any drastic changes to an employee agreement can cause an employee to file a constructive dismissal claim to the Ministry of Labour. A Ministry of Labour inspector will investigate the claim. Please contact your Business Resources department for further details.

Does my employee qualify for the Easter Holiday pay, even when they when they weren’t scheduled to work due to COVID-19?

All employees, unless they are part of the Employment Standards Special Rule exemption, are eligible for Statutory Holiday Pay, if they have been an employee of the company for at least 30 days prior to the holiday AND they have earned wages on at least 15 out of the 30 days prior to the holiday.

Can my employee take additional emergency leave due to COVID-19?

On March 23, 2020 the BC Government introduced Bill 16, Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2020, which entitles employees to:

  • take three days of unpaid sick leave, provided they have been employed for 90 days; and
  • an unpaid leave of absence in relation to COVID-19 if:
    • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is complying with instructions, orders or advice from medical professionals;
      • the employee is taking care of a family member who are ill with COVID-19
      • the employee is taking care of a child who would otherwise be in school/daycare
What are the rights of my employees that are on COVID-19 leave?

Your employee is entitled to return to work to same job or comparable job, without penalty, able to continue to receive their benefits (if opted in) and continue to add to years of service with your business.

I am considering terminating/laying off my employee at this time, what should I know?

The British Columbia Ministry of Labour outlines an employee’s minimum entitlement when an employee is being terminated or laid off. This includes termination notice or pay, as well as severance – each entitlement depends on length of employment. While this may seem like the only option, please consider speaking with your Business Resources team as this can be a sensitive time to make this decision.

My employee has decided to resign, what should I do?

If the employee has decided to part ways, the employee should give you a letter of resignation for your records. No termination notice or pay, nor severance pay is due.

Occupational Health and Safety

What are my employee health and safety rights?

The Occupational Health and Safety requires all employers to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers. An employee has the right to participate by providing feedback to their employer, the right to know hazards that they may be exposed to, and the right to refuse working in unsafe environment.

What should I have in my workplace to maintain a safe environment?

While the British Columbia government has created industry specific guidelines with WorkSafe BC to assist as you reopen your business, every business is different, and you should assess your business operations to address potential risks. Preventative measures can include installing physical distancing signage, adding plexi-glass to create a barrier between customer and employee, and/or having a supply of hand sanitizer, paper towel, and soap for employees on site.

Along with creating preventative measures for your business, you should also aim to comply with current Occupational Health and Safety rules, such as having a violence and harassment policy and program, as well as health and safety policy and training your employees on Health and Safety Awareness.

My employee feels ill, do I have to send them home?

If your employee is ill, the employee must be sent home and you should contact your employee remotely to advise them to complete the online COVID-19 assessment and call their family physician. You should create a list of their whereabouts in the workplace, including but not limited to: the washroom, workstations, lunchroom, and equipment used so that you can assign a staff member to disinfect areas. If possible, also compile a list of staff they worked with during their shift.

What if I find out my employee has been exposed to COVID-19 at work, who do I notify?

If employee tested positive for COVID-19: report it to the BC Ministry of Labour within four (4) days, as well as your health and safety rep/committee. Your local Public Health Unit can provide further guidance.

What should I know about how WorkSafe BC will handle COVID-19 situations?

If an employee believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 during work hours, they should report this to you, and go for testing to confirm this suspicion. If found positive, they will file an incident report (Form 7) with WorkSafe BC; and the employer shall do the same. If WorkSafe BC determines that the illness was contracted at work, they will manage it as any other accident claim.

What if my employees are refusing work due to COVID-19 concerns?

Employees have the right to refuse working under what they consider unsafe environment. If this is the case, remind your employees of the preventive measures that have put in place, and the safety products available to them. Communicate to the employee that their safety is your priority.

You may choose to reassign work, perhaps allowing them to work from home. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment. There is a work refusal process, which includes calling WorkSafe BC to ensure safety of employee and confirm if your preventative measures are up to the standards. If they deem your workplace to be “safe” and your employee still refuses a recall, it may be considered a resignation. Please contact us for further details on this topic.

Can I hire a replacement to an employee on a leave?

You can hire temporary employees to replace employees that are unable to return. When hiring temporary staff, provide them with a contract that details their terms and conditions – as well as a termination date as this serves as the formal termination date.

Given the urgency surrounding this issue, we have additional CFIB staff answering your inquiries to help you manage COVID-19 situations in the workplace. We are receiving hundreds of calls per day and apologize for any delays you may encounter—we are committed to getting back to you as soon as we can. Contact us at 1-888-234-2232.

Visit our online COVID-19 portal at for FAQs on: Business Continuity, How to access financial support, CRA Information, EI & Employee Income, Employee Management, Fraud and business security, Health and Safety, and Employee travel.

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Everything you need to know to navigate the crisis

During the  COVID-19 crisis, our primary concern at CFIB is making sure you have the support you need to get through this uncertain and challenging time. We will provide you with expert advice and ensure that you have all of the latest information on government announcements and available support.

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