Premier Horgan announced that he anticipates certain orders for the relaxation of public health restrictions next week. The Premier indicated that physical distancing requirements will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future, and that businesses should consider operating online services to the greatest extent possible. He also indicated that the government is considering amendments to employment standards legislation that will provide for paid sick leave, without indicating who would bear the cost of such leave.
On May 6, 2020, the British Columbia government announced a 4-phase plan for economic recovery and transition towards a “new normal.”
Premier Horgan announced that the province is currently in “Phase I” of the Plan.
Phase II is expected to take effect during mid-May, which will involve:
- small social gatherings;
- a resumption of elective surgeries and regulated health services like physiotherapy, dentistry, chiropractors and in-person counselling;
- provincial parks opening for day use;
- opening more non-essential businesses in keeping with safe operations plans; and
- recalling the provincial legislature for regular sittings.
Additional businesses are expected re-open during Phase III, which is anticipated to occur between June and September 2020.
Any businesses that have been ordered to close (such as restaurants, taverns, and personal services establishments) will be required to develop re-opening plans approved by WorkSafeBC.
The British Columbia government further announced a phased approach to reopening elementary and secondary schools.
On May 8, 2020, WorkSafeBC published a bulletin describing steps that businesses should take to develop workplace safety plans for operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bulletin provides steps for:
- assessing risk;
- reducing risk;
- developing reopening policies;
- developing communication plans and training; and
- monitoring the workplace.
The bulletin indicates that during an inspection, employers will be asked to demonstrate steps taken to protect workers and ensure that workers understand the measures.
On May 15, 2020, the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer published an Order requiring employers to develop COVID-19 worksite safety plans. An employer’s plan must be posted on the employer’s website and at the workplace. The government also published guidance documents for employers operating work camps in the natural resources sector, as well as for farm and agriculture businesses.
The government announced that elementary and secondary schools will resume in-class learning on June 1, 2020, on a part-time basis. In-class learning will be voluntary. Students in Kindergarten through Grade 5 will be able to attend class at 50 percent of previous levels, while students in Grades 6 through 12 will be able to attend classes at 20 percent of previous levels (approximately 1 day per week). Online learning will continue to be provided.
On May 16-17, 2020, the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer provided notice that personal service establishments, such as spas, hair salons, and massage therapy businesses, may operate effective May 19, 2020.
The Provincial Health Officer amended the Order for restaurants and other places of business where meals and drinks are served. The amended order permits in-person dining and beverage services, provided certain environmental and physical distancing requirements are met.
WorkSafeBC published guidance documents and templates for employer COVID-19 Safety Plans, which are required by the Provincial Health Officer.
WorkSafeBC also published a number of guidance documents for arts and cultural facilities, health professional services, in person counselling services, public education services, offices, personal services, restaurants, and retail operations.
On May 21, 2020, the British Columbia Minister of Labour announces that WorkSafeBC will conduct random inspections of BC businesses to ensure that employers are complying with the obligation to create and implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Although Safety Plans do not need to be submitted to WorkSafeBC as a condition of operating, a WorkSafeBC officer or health officer may request a copy to ensure businesses are taking adequate steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to reports, Minister Bains has characterized the measure as part of the government’s plan to increase consumer trust in BC businesses.
On the weekend of May 23-24, 2020, the government amended its Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people in order to permit more than 50 people to be gathered in the following circumstances:
- employees engaged in work activities;
- customers of malls and retail operations; and
- individuals attending an episodic vending market.
The amended Order prohibits “drive in events” from:
- having more than 50 vehicles in attendance;
- selling food or drink; and
- allowing patrons to leave their vehicles, except to use washroom facilities.
The British Columbia Provincial Health Officer issued an amended Order to restaurants, retail liquor establishments, and places where food and/or drink is prepared and served. Establishments which:
- collect information for the purpose of making reservations or seating guests must collect and retain first and last names, as well as telephone numbers or email addresses of at least one patron from each party of guests; and
- retain the information for 30 days.
On May 28, 2020, the British Columbia health officer published an Order affecting episodic vending markets. Vendors must not provide samples and must sell food and alcohol in sealed retail containers. Managers must encourage customers to maintain a 2-metre distance in any line, and post signs reminding customers to maintain a 2-metre distance from one another.
WorkSafeBC published guidance documents regarding hazardous process facilities, such as oil and gas refineries, pulp and paper mills, breweries, and power generation facilities. The document contains a checklist of issues for employers to consider, including in the development of their COVID-19 Safety Plans.
On May 30, 2020, the British Columbia Provincial Health officer published an Order prohibiting overnight camps for children and youth.
In addition, Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools will re-open to in-class learning on June 1, 2020
On June 5, 2020, the British Columbia government issued a Ministerial Order that extended permitting health-care workers, schools, and other public sectors to utilize certain software and technology in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The third-party tools or applications are being used to support and maintain the operation of programs or activities in these sectors and is used to enable communication or collaboration between individuals. This Order will remain in effect until December 31, 2020
On June 11, 2020, WorkSafeBC published a safety protocol for first aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. The protocol describes procedures that employers and employees should take when providing first aid, including cleaning and hygiene, and the provision of CPR.
On June 11, 2020, WorkSafeBC published health and safety guidelines for employers in the accommodation industry, which includes hotels, motels, hostels, and parks, as well as the Motion Picture and Television production industry.
The Solicitor General enacted the Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID-19) Order. This Order immunizes sports organizations, directors, officers, employees and volunteers of sport organizations from liability for damages resulting directly or indirectly from exposure to COVID-19 as a result of the provision of an organized sport activity. This immunization is conditional on the organization providing the sport activity in compliance with all applicable emergency and public health guidance, or a reasonable belief that the activity was provided in accordance with such guidance, and excludes gross negligence.
The Provincial Health Officer published a revised Order affecting food service establishments and liquor services. Under the revised Order, businesses must calculate the maximum number of patrons and staff that can be accommodated on premises while standing or sitting 2-metres apart. This maximum must be recorded in the business’ COVID-19 Safety Plan, and this number of staff and patrons should not be exceeded on premises at any time. The revised Order also sets out additional orders relating to hygiene and physical distancing practices.
On June 17, 2020, British Columbians are invited to share their feedback as the Province continues to build a strong economic recovery that works for people.
There are three main ways for people to share their ideas, experiences and priorities:
- An online survey is the fastest and easiest way to provide answers to some important questions and give advice. Visit: http://gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas
- Respond to the paper, Building B.C.’s Recovery, Together: Have Your Say, which was released on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. Ideas and responses can be submitted to: [email protected]
- Participate in virtual town halls. British Columbians can learn more about the virtual town halls here: http://gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas
On June 22, 2020, the British Columbia government updated its COVID-19- Support website. The update reminds businesses that COVID-19 Safety Plans must be completed and published. The website also provides information about consumer expectations when engaging certain industries during Phase 2 of the provincial Restart Plan.
In addition, on June 22, 2020, the British Columbia government proposed a new piece of legislation aimed at creating a controlled end to the declared state of provincial emergency, which has been in effect since March 18, 2020. The COVID-19 Measures Act automatically incorporates and extends certain ministerial orders enacted under the Emergency Program Act, which would otherwise end immediately at the conclusion of the state of emergency.
The Act extends the following orders by 90 days after the end of the state of emergency:
- Electronic Attendance (COVID19) Orders (Strata Property Meetings, Corporate Meetings, Credit Union Meetings, Statutory Meetings)
- Local Government Meetings and Bylaw Process (COVID19) Order Nos. 2 & 3
- Bylaw Enforcement Officer (COVID19) Order
- Local Authorities and Essential Goods and Supplies (COVID19) Order
- Provincial Compliance Officer (COVID19) Order
- Limitation Periods (COVID19) Order No. 2
- Health Care Labour Adjustment (COVID19) Order
- Prohibition on Unconscionable Prices for Essential Goods and Supplies (COVID19) Order
- Employment and Assistance (COVID19) Order
- Local Government Finance (COVID19) Order
- Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID19) Order
- Electronic Attendance at UBCM Convention (COVID19) Order
- Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID19) Order
The Act extends the following orders by 45 days after the end of the state of emergency:
- Limitation Periods (COVID19) Order
- Residential Tenancy (COVID19) Order
- Protection Against Liability (COVID19) Order Nos. 1 & 2
- Supreme Court Civil and Family Applications (COVID19) Order
- Encampment Health and Safety (COVID19) Orders (Nos. 1 & 2, Vancouver Enforcement Order, Victoria Enforcement Order)
Anticipating the potential for a second wave of COVID-19, the Act also provides the ability for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to extend all the foregoing orders for up to one year after the enactment of the Act, and may repeal any of the foregoing orders earlier than the 45 or 90 days provided in the Act. The Lieutenant Governor in Council also has the power under the Act to add orders to the Act that were made under the Emergency Program Act with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the Act provides the Lieutenant Governor in Council the power to enact regulations that provide protection from civil liability flowing from the COVID-19 pandemic, except in circumstances of gross negligence.
The Act is anticipated to be read for a second time in the legislative assembly on June 23, 2020. We will provide a further update if and when the Act receives royal assent.
On June 24, 2020, the British Columbia government announced that the province is moving to Phase 3 of the four-phase restart plan, including the safe and respectful return of travel and tourism within the province.
Most of the businesses listed in Phase 3 of BC’s Restart Plan now have the guidance they need to safely begin to open. WorkSafeBC, public health officials and industry representatives have developed guidelines for hotels and resorts, parks, the film industry and select entertainment, like movie theatres, and businesses in these sectors have already begun to open with COVID-19 safety plans in place.
The provincial health officer has laid out travel guidelines for everyone travelling to and within BC:
- pre-trip planning and research on available resources at arriving destination;
- respecting any local travel advisories to isolated and remote communities;
- no travelling for anyone who is sick, and if symptoms develop while travelling – self isolate immediately and contact 811 for guidance and testing;
- practising safe physical distancing of two metres at all times;
- spending time in small groups and open spaces; and
- practising good hygiene, including frequent handwashing and cleaning.
For information on Phase 3 and guidelines and advice for safe travel this summer, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID-19.
Phase 3 and updated Phase 2 workplace safety protocols are now available for the following industries:
- Accommodation (hotels, motels, lodges, RV parks, cabins, and hostels)
- Body art studios and (semi-) permanent makeup application has been added to Personal service
- Day camps have been added to the child care section (now called Child care and day camps)
- Motion picture and television production
- Movie theatres has been added to Arts and culture
- Performing arts
- Sports and recreation (includes pools and ice rinks)
On July 3, 2020, the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer issued an amended order respecting industrial camp accommodations. The amended order requires all existing industrial camps to arrange for an inspection by provincial health officials of accommodations, the worksite, and vehicles used to transport workers to and from the worksite as soon as possible. New industrial camp accommodations will require such inspection before placing workers in accommodation or operating a worksite.
The government also reminded inland ferry passengers to adhere to Transport Canada’s COVID-19 safety protocols, which limit amenities, encourage the use of cloth masks and physical distancing, and prohibit access to persons with symptoms.
On July 10, 2020, British Columbia’s COVID-19 Related Measures Act was brought into force by regulation. The Act allows certain emergency orders in response to the pandemic to be extended past the end of the provincial State of Emergency by either 45 or 90 days. The Act also provides powers to the government to take certain emergency actions in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.