Skip to main content

Your business and COVID-19 in British Columbia

  • Home
  • Your business and COVID 19 in British Columbia

We’re here to help

To help you navigate these challenging times, this page provides information on pandemic-related restrictions, support measures, government services, and useful CFIB resources for British Columbia. You’ll also learn how CFIB is fighting for your business.

Update:
April 1, 2021 – The BC Government extended the deadline of the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant program to August 31, 2021. Click here to learn more and see eligibility criteria.

Use our operational plan template

Protecting your staff, customers, and business is a top priority, so we’ve put together an operational plan template to help you do just that. With tips for best practices, advice on meeting provincial compliance requirements, and links to downloadable COVID-19 resources, the plan is clear, concise, and easy to tailor to your needs.

DOWNLOAD NOW

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 Closures

Update: 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 Release here for more detail. The previous provincial health order which allowed Nightlife Venues to open July 22, 2020 is now no longer in effect.

    Business Restrictions

    Update: 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

    Restaurant guidelines: additional requirements and clarity have been provided for restaurants.

    • 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

    Mask Mandate

    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.

    Mask enforcement

    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

    Mask exemptions

    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

    Employee Management

    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.

    Sick Leave

    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.

    Temporary Layoffs

    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.

    COVID-19 Vaccine

    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.

    What to do if an employee tests COVID-19 positive

    Employer's responsibilities:

    • 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:

    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;

    Financial support programs (Provincial)

    Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant 

    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

    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.

    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.)

    WorkSafe BC

    • 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.

    Service BC 

    • 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.

    BC Hydro

    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).

    ICBC

    • 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

    Tax deferrals (Provincial)

    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. 

    Tax relief (Provincial)

    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.

    Sector specific initiatives (Provincial)

    *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.

    What CFIB is doing in British Columbia

    What we’ve achieved
    • Provincial School Tax reduction in 2020, with average business seeing a 25% reduction in their overall bill
    • Deferment of several provincial taxes in 2020 (e.g., Employer Health Tax, PST)
    • Delayed implementation of tax on sugary drinks (deferred from April 2020 to April 2021)
    • Delayed increase of Carbon tax (delayed from April 2020 to April 2021)
    • Financial aid for small businesses, SME Recovery Grant
    • Financial aid to help businesses with ecommerce, Launch Online
    • Financial aid to help hospitality and fitness businesses impacted by the March 30, 2021 PHO order, Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant 
    • PST refund on certain machinery and equipment purchased through September 17, 2020 to September 30, 2021
    • Commercial Eviction Ban from June 1, 2020 to October 1, 2020
    What we’re asking for
    • Provincial property tax relief (i.e. School Tax) in 2021
    • Expansion of the SME Recovery Grant to include more businesses, like those who opened in 2020 (i.e. new businesses)
    • Expansion of Launch Online grant such that service-based businesses can access funding to help with digital marketing and other online technologies
    • Reintroduction of commercial eviction protection
    • Introduce a training grant to help businesses recover from the pandemic
    • Defer provincial taxes such as the Employer Health Tax in 2021
    • Postpone any new taxes or cost increases (e.g. Carbon Tax, Minimum wage) set to happen in 2021

    Learn more on how CFIB is fighting for better relief at the federal level.

    Additional resources

    Don’t see the information you need? Talk to an expert – it's FREE

    CFIB members get one-on-one advice from our business counsellors, exclusive access to helpful webinars, weekly email updates, and a voice in the support measures we push for from the government.

    CFIB members: Get in touch today.

    Not a CFIB member? We want to support you during this crisis. With a FREE temporary CFIB membership, you can access the same benefits and supports as a CFIB member.

    GET YOUR FREE TEMPORARY MEMBERSHIP
    Visit our COVID-19 Help Centre

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

    Visit our Help Centre