COVID-19 New Legislation

Employment Law Considerations in B.C.
Update on COVID-19

Written by Charlene Cleary
Charlene Cleary is the principal and founding lawyer of Westshore Law in Victoria. Serving clients on Vancouver Island and the mainland, she enjoys helping other business owners work through existing issues and also to help prevent future problems. www.westshorelaw.ca

New Legislation

The Employment Standards Branch has released an expansion to its existing leave provisions under the Employment Standards Act, which is aimed at protecting employees from being terminated for taking COVID-19 related leave from work. Here is what we know about this new COVID-19 leave:

An employee can take unpaid, job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if they are unable to work for any of the following reasons:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse
  • They are in quarantine or self-isolation and are acting in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control or guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Their employer has directed them not to work due to concern about their exposure to others
  • They need to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure
  • They are outside of BC and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions

The COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk. Once it is no longer needed, this leave will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

Employment lawyers who work primarily with employers were hoping to see a change in the law regarding temporary layoffs but so far, the government has not commented on this issue. For more information on temporary layoffs (and the legality surrounding them) refer to Version 1 of our COVID-19 update (17 March 2020).

Useful Links

Here is a link for the federal government site that we found useful:

Note and Disclaimer

We have compiled a summary the changes in the law, new programs and expansion to existing programs. Please refer to official government websites for precise details and application information (as it becomes available). This information sheet is only a summary of certain programs and does not list all available programs or issues surrounding COVID-19 and the workplace.

Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as legal advice – for specific advice or questions contact your employment lawyer.

For Human Resource support contact us.

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