Your business and COVID-19 in British Columbia
Public health measures & restrictions
Provincial Health Orders and Business Restrictions
Click here to see all BC Governments Provincial Health Orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Should you have any questions about how any of the orders may impact your business, please call our Business Help Line at 1-888-234-2232.
Business ClosuresUPDATE: DECEMBER 21, 2021 - The following restrictions in BC will come into effect on Wednesday December 22nd at 11:59pm and last at least until January 18, 2022:
- Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios will be closed across the province.
- Seated events will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity regardless of the size of the venue including concerts, sports games, theatres and movie theatres.
- A maximum of six people per table at restaurants and tables must be distanced
October 19, 2021 - The BC government has announced that as of October 25th, 2021 organized events that require proof of vaccination will be allowed to return to 100% capacity. This includes sporting events, concerts, theatres, movie theatres, weddings, funerals, etc. The requirement for patrons to remain seated an restaurants and bars will also be removed. This will not apply to regions under additional restrictions including parts of the Northern Health region, the east Fraser valley, and the Interior Health Region. Full details can be found here .
October 14, 2021 - Parts of the Northern Health region are under additional restrictions due to high Covid-19 case counts. These restrictions apply to all communities east of Kitwanga. These restrictions included liquor sales seizing at 10:00pm, a closure order for bars and nightclubs not serving food, indoor dining to require proof of full vaccination, organized indoor events limited to 50 people, organized outdoor events limited to 100 people, sporting events limited to 50% capacity, all organized and sporting events will require proof of full vaccination. Full details can be found here .
September 26, 2021 - Parts of the Fraser Health region are under additional restrictions due to high Covid-19 case counts. These restrictions apply to all communities in the east Fraser valley. These restrictions include full vaccination for any activities or services that require the BC vaccine card, a limit of 10 people for organized indoor events and a limit of 50 people for organized outdoor events unless all attendees are fully vaccinated. Full details can be found here .
August 24, 2021 - The Interior Health Region is under additional restrictions due to high Covid-19 case counts. These restrictions include mandatory masks in all indoor public spaces, Indoor and Outdoor gatherings limited to 50 people, Covid safety plans are required, High Intensity Fitness classes are prohibited, Personal social gatherings are limited to one other household or 5 other people, Travel to the region is not recommended. Full details can be found here .
July 1, 2021 - BC’s restart plan, step3, allows for no limits in restaurants and bars (or personal gatherings), Indoor events of 50% capacity and outdoor events of 5000 (or 50% capacity if the space hold over 5000), no restrictions on indoor group fitness classes, fairs and festivals with limited capacity, casinos and nightclubs open with limited capacity, and Canada-wide travel. Masks are now recommended (see mask mandate below). See full details here .
June 15, 2021 - BC's Restart plan, step 2, allows for non-essential interprovincial travel, 50 person seated events, indoor sports games(no spectators) and high-intensity fitness with safety plans, and liquor service at restaurants, bars and pubs extended until midnight. Mask mandates remain in place - see full details here
May 25, 2021 - BC's Restart plan, step 1, allows for indoor and outdoor dining for groups up to 6 people and liquor service until 10pm. Sports and exercise allow for indoor low intensity group exercise with limited capacity, and outdoor games and practices for both adults and youth groups/team sports.
April 23, 2021
New orders came into effect under the Emergency Program Act, restricting non-essential travel between certain regions of the province and will remain in place until May 25 at midnight. This includes travel for:
- Vacations, weekend getaways and tourism activities
- Visiting family or friends for social reasons
- Recreation activities
April 19, 2021
Circuit Breaker restrictions set to expire today have been extended until May 24, 2021. These are the existing restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms and the 10 day closure for businesses with 3 or more COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
March 30, 2021
Group fitness activities: businesses who conduct high intensity group exercise must close under this Order.
Includes (but not limited) to: hot yoga, spin classes, aerobics, HIIT, bootcamp
Indoor low intensity group exercise is prohibited until April 19 at 11:59 pm, includes yoga (Hatha), low intensity exercise machines and cardio equipment, pilates, light weightlifting, stretching, Tai-Chi, low intensity Barre classes
Individual workouts and personal training can continue
November 19, 2020 - current: Business Closure Order, Group fitness activities and events.
A new Order came into effect as of midnight, November 19, 2020. It effects several business sectors, please read carefully to see if your business is impacted. For the full list of details on the BC Government's website, please click here to visit the webpage.
September 8, 2020 – current: Business Closure Order, Nightclubs and Banquet Halls Order for Nightclubs and Banquet Halls: all nightclubs and banquet halls must close. See the BC Government's News Releasehere for more detail. The previous provincial health order which allowed Nightlife Venues to open July 22, 2020 is now no longer in effect.
Update: September 7 2021- Starting September 13, 2021 businesses in numerous non-essential sectors will be required to check proof of vaccination for customers and patrons. A list of sectors and further details can be found here .
March 30, 2021 - Restaurants, pubs, bars and food courts are closed for indoor dining until April 19 at 11:59 pm.
- Outdoor patio seating and take-out or delivery is allowed
- Breweries, wineries and tasting rooms can operate outdoor patios
- Liquor may only be served on a patio if people are seated
- Patrons must wear a mask when not at a table
- Events are not allowed under the new order
- Six person maximum at tables, no moving between tables of patrons
Mandatory Mask Regulations
Update March 10, 2022 - As of Friday, March 11, 2022, B.C.’s indoor mask order is being repealed along with eased restrictions on long-term care visitors, faith gatherings and overnight camps for children and youth. This announcement also sets a pathway to lift additional COVID-19 restrictions, including the BC Vaccine Card requiring proof of vaccination, on April 8. Details here.
August 25, 2021 -As of August 25 2021, Mask are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
July 1, 2021 -Masks are recommended in indoor public settings for all people 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated.;
- You're fully vaccinated 14 days after dose 2
- Masks are optional for children aged 2 to 12
- Children under 2 should not wear masks
- Proof of vaccination does not need to be requested by service providers
- Some people may choose to continue to wear a mask after they're fully vaccinated and that's okay
May 18, 2021 - masks are now required to be worn at all times in fitness facilities (gyms, fitness studios and dance studios) including during workouts. See details here .
Masks are now mandatory in public indoor spaces
- The order applies to common areas in workplaces, including elevators and waiting rooms
- People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt
- Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers - in addition, a customer can be refused entry or service if they do not wear a mask
See the Order that enforces the Mask Mandate by clicking here .
Individuals may be subject to a $230 fine if they:
- Do not wear a mask in an indoor public setting, unless you are exempt
- Refuse to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including the direction to leave the space
- Engage in abusive or belligerent behaviour
Certain people are exempted from wearing masks in public indoor spaces, this includes:
- People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear one
- People who cannot remove a mask on their own
- Children under the age of 12
- People who need to remove their masks to communicate due to another person's hearing impairment
Communicable Disease Plan
As of July 1, 2021 employers are no longer required to maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan, and can instead transition to communicable disease prevention. More information about a communicable disease plan and a guide for employers can be found here . The BC Communicable Disease Prevention Plan template can be found here .
Employment standards and Labour legislation changes
Please note: if you have any questions about the following material, or are looking for templates to use (e.g. Sick Leave Policy, Travel and Quarantine Policy, Health and Safety program) please contact our Business Resources line at 1-888-234-2232 to speak to an expert and get the resources you need.
Update May 11, 2021 - Today the BC government introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act, bringing in three days of paid sick leave related to COVID-19, such as having symptoms, self-isolating and waiting for a test result. Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the Province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day for each worker to cover costs. View the BC update here and more details to come.
April 19, 2021 - The BC government introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act that provides workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. The act will be retroactively applied to April 19th. Details from the news release are here .
On March 23, 2020 the BC Government introduced a new Bill to the Employment Standards Act, which entitles employees to:
- 3 unpaid days of sick leave, provided they have been employed for 90 days
- an unpaid leave of absence in relation to COVID-19 if the employee has or is: been diagnosed with COVID-19, in quarantine or self-isolation, the employer has directed the employee not to work due to concern of COVID-19 exposure, providing care to someone who is sick or is a child, or prevented from returning to BC because of travel restrictions
Please note that an employee is not requires to provide a medical note to their employer to take COVID-19 leave. However, as an employer you are allowed to ask the employee to provide reasonable evidence. This new protective leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020.
On May 4, 2020 the province initially extended the temporary layoff period during COVID-19 from 13 weeks to 16 weeks. The province further extended the temporary layoff period to 24 weeks, but this expired on Aug. 30, 2020.
If your business needs to extend a temporary layoff beyond August 30, 2020 due to COVID-19 reasons, you will need to apply for an extension through a BC government portal. You will need to inform the employee of your intention to apply, and have at least 50% of employees effected agree to the extended layoff. You can visit the government portal by clicking here .
UPDATE September 7 2021 - The BC government has released the details on how to access and administer the BC vaccine card. Information on how to properly check the vaccine card, fines and enforcement, and business resources (posters, diagrams, help lines, etc.) can be found here .
August 23, 2021- The BC government will now require proof of vaccination, starting September 13, 2021 , for certain indoor activities and businesses, including concerts, sporting events, dining, gyms, workshops and weddings. . Details here .
Can my business make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory to employees?
WorkSafe BC is actively looking into the concept mandatory vaccinations in the workplace, and we will have more information on this soon. Workplaces who have employees working directly with vulnerable populations (ie. the elderly, the young, and those with pre-existing conditions that might make them more prone to catching COVID, or might be at higher risk if they caught it) are able to require vaccines (known as a ‘bonafide job requirement’).
Click here to visit the BC Government’s website on their COVID-19 Immunization Plan.
Do I need a vaccination policy?
It may be possible to put a vaccination policy in place, or to make being vaccinated a condition of employment; however, it is important that accommodations are made for employees who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. It is worth noting that terminating an employee for not getting the vaccine could lead to a claim of unfair dismissal.
Before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, consider the following:
- Does the workplace serve a vulnerable population?
- What is the nature and duration of the employee’s contact with that population?
- Assess risk for different positions – you may want to avoid an all-employee blanket policy.
- Ensure the policy is clear and employees understand consequences for non-compliance.
It is strongly recommended you consult with legal counsel to evaluate the risk of a mandatory vaccination policy in your workplace.
CFIB has a template vaccination policy available to members in our Resource Library. Please note: due to the legal implications, our Advisors are not in a position to help customize this template. To customize it, you should speak with a lawyer.
What to do if an employee tests COVID-19 positive
- A worker who has symptoms should leave the workplace, get tested and self-isolate.
While your employee is self-isolating and waiting for her results, share these links with them to review the process and give her additional information about the situation:
- What to do after you get tested - Handout
- Test Results
- Self-isolation dos and don'ts
- Guide to self-isolation for those with symptoms
- If you are sick
Positive test results:
- Send all employee's home immediately;
- Deep workplace cleaning;
- Review the Health & safety plan;
- Call your employee's back to work and review company policies;
- Make sure the workplace is safe – Reach out to WorkSafeBC if employees are having issues to be back at the workplace;
Provincial financial support programs
COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant
*Update* January 12, 2022 - Applications for the Covid-19 Closure Relief Grant are now open. See details here .
British Columbia businesses that were mandated to temporarily shut down from December 23, 2021 - January 18, 2022 through public health orders because of surging COVID-19 cases will be eligible to receive a new one-time relief grant of up to $10,000 to help with expenses including rent, employee wages, insurance, maintenance and utilities.
Businesses ordered fully closed include gyms, fitness, adult dance centres, bars, lounges, nightclubs, and event venues that can no longer hold events.
Applications for the grant will begin in January 2022, open until the end of February 2022. See details here.
Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant
UPDATE - June 4, 2021
The BC Government is extending the deadline for applications to July 2, 2021 to keep the Small and Medium Sized Businesses Recovery Grant operating until the expected start of Step 3 of BC's Restart plan, July 1, 2021. Details here .
This grant program is available until August 31, 2021 (thanks to CFIB advocacy, the deadline was extended!) for businesses. Eligible businesses can receive up to $30,000, with an additional $15,000 top-up for tourism businesses. New changes introduced in February, 2021 have expanded eligibility - we recommend you check to see if your business is now eligible. The application portal and eligibility requirements can be found by clicking here .
Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant
Update: April 26, 2021
Today the BC Government announced an additional $75m in relief for those affected by the Circuit Breaker restrictions. For those who have already applied, funding will be automatically provided.
This grant program, announced April 8, 2021, provides fully funded grants to help the 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres affected by the March 30, 2021 PHO orders. Grants are available until June 4, 2021 or until funds are fully expended, whichever comes first. The application portal and eligibility requirements can be found by clicking here .
Launch Online Grant
The BC government launched a new program which provides funding to help B.C.-based businesses sell their goods online. The grant will pay for up to 75% of eligible ecommerce, online marketing, and other digital expenses up to a maximum of $7,500. This program is open until all funding is spoken for. To be eligible, your business must be operating in B.C., has less than 149 employees, and has generated sales of more than $30,000 in the year preceding the application. Click here to learn more about the Launch Online grant program, or start an application.
Major Anchor Attractions Program
The Major Anchor Attractions Program, announced May 18, 2021, provides one-time emergency funding to major anchor attractions and tour bus companies that service tourism attractions to help them operate at minimal levels until domestic travel resumes and it's safe to gather indoors in small groups. The program is available to businesses and not-for-profits. Applications open June 2021. Click here fore eligibility requirements.
Increased Employment Incentive: a tax credit on payroll
To encourage hiring, the BC government is offering a 15% tax credit on payroll for new hires in low to medium-wage jobs made in Q4 of 2020. The incentive can also be claimed on wage increases for current employees in low to medium-wage job positions. For the purpose of this incentive, the government defines "low to medium-wage jobs" as maximum weekly BC remuneration of $1,129.33. Businesses will be able to apply online in March 2021. Click here to see the BC government web page for more detail.
PST Rebate on Select Machinery and Equipment
Between September 17, 2020 and September 30, 2021, corporations can apply to receive a PST refund on qualifying machinery and equipment purchases. Applications will be accepts online starting April 1, 2021. For details on eligibility and qualifying purchases, see the BC government wage page for more detail.
Relief and initiatives from provincial services (Worksafe BC, utilities, etc.)
- Your business was able to defer Q1 & Q2 payments for 2020 until October 20, 2020 (i.e. the date when Q3 payments are due). Please note that you will still be required to report your payroll by certain dates. Learn more here .
- WorkSafeBC has waived premiums on furloughed workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). This is retroactive to March 15, 2020 and will last the entirety of the CEWS program.
- WorkSafe BC has put together a guide for employers on preventing exposure of COVID-19 in the workplace. Read the guide here .
- WorkSafe BC has complied health and safety information guides for many industries, including a small business guide. Read the guides here .
Despite our consistent efforts urging the Minister of Labour not to, costly changes to the system at the height of the pandemic were made. To learn more about these changes and what they mean for your business, click here .
- Centres are remaining open for now.
- Vulnerable citizens (e.g. seniors and people with underlying health conditions) will receive priority service during the first hour of business.
- Call your local Service BC centre to make an appointment.
The following announcement was made April 1, 2020. See the BC Government News Release here. We are awaiting on further details on definitions and necessary applications.
- Small businesses that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months, from April to June, 2020
- BC Hydro is offering an option of a three-month deferment to larger businesses
- Universal one per cent rate reduction for all customers starting April 1, 2020
The following announcements have also been made by BC Hydro:
- If you've fallen behind on bill payments, we encourage you to set up a flexible, catch-up payment plan by calling our customer service team at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376).
- Deferrals have been extended to up to 90 days.
- People dealing with job loss, illness, or loss of wages due to COVID-19 may now also qualify for BC Hydro’s Customer Crisis Fund grant program and receive up to $600.
Tax relief and sector specific assistance
Provincial tax deferrals
The BC Government is not currently delaying any taxes. Listed below are the expired deferrals.
(Now expired) The BC Government deferred several provincial tax filings and payments during 2020. The following taxes/costs came due on September 30, 2020:
- Employer Health Tax
- Provincial Sales Tax
- Motor fuel tax
- Tobacco tax
(Now expired) Employers required to pay installments for the Employer Health Tax in the 2020 calendar year will be able to defer the payments. The new installment due dates are as follows:
- First installment - December 31, 2020
- Second installment - January 31, 2021
- Third installment - February 28, 2021
The remaining tax payable is due with the employer health tax return by March 31, 2021.
(Now expired) The BC government introduced certain sector-specific payment deferrals, however the due date to pay has now passed. For reference:
- Liquor licenses: if your business has a liquor license, you were eligible to request your license renewal fee be deferred until September 30, 2020. Deferral requests now closed.
- Forestry sector: stumpage fees that were due in April, 2020 were deferred until end of July, 2020.
- Delayed the increase of the Carbon Tax to April 1, 2021 (initially planned for April 1, 2020).
- Postponed the tax on carbonated, sweetened beverages until April 1, 2021.
For a full list of tax initiatives and tax-related changes, please see the BC Goverments web page here .
Provincial tax relief
The province of BC reduced the Provincial Property tax (i.e. Provincial School Tax) for commercial and industrial properties (Class 4, 5 and 6). The BC government is claiming the average business should have experienced a 25% reduction in their total property tax bill for 2020.
Provincial sector-specific initiatives
*Now made permanent* Temporary wholesale pricing model for liquor licensees: The BC government introduced a new program which will run end of July, 2020 until March 31, 2021. The program allows hospitality licensees (including restaurants, bars and pubs) to purchase beer, wine and spirits at the wholesale price instead of the normal retail markup price set by the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). For details, see here .
Liquor manufacturers temporarily allowed to do direct delivery: Until March 31, 2021 (Thanks to CFIB advocacy, the program has been extended from the original expiry date of October 31, 2020!), liquor manufacturers are allowed to deliver products directly to individual consumers from their registered off-site storage facilities in addition to their on-site stores. See government news release here .
Ongoing support for agri-businesses and food and beverage producers. While some of the COVID-19 specific support programs have expired, other support programs are still running. For a full list, please visit the BC Government website on Agriculture programs by clicking here . The BC government is investing $300,000 to support farmers, ranchers, and food and beverage processors market their products as locally grown, raised, harvested or produced. The money is available to help agribusinesses sell their products online, direct to consumers across the province. The funding offers financial support to access and develop websites, online sales, the costs of marketing, and shipping products to consumers.