"Now that COVID is no longer dominating our lives, it feels close to pre-pandemic times. But not with everything. What do we need to be aware of?"
– Sydney, Vancouver, BC
Even though the coronavirus outbreak is mostly behind us, many continue to have questions. We’ve got the latest, as of January 2024, on how COVID impacts work, home, money, consumer issues, wills, and courts.
Public health restrictions
There are no province-wide restrictions in place right now. Check out the government’s guidance for the latest developments.
The province is no longer requiring that masks be worn in indoor public spaces. Though starting October 3, 2023, medical masks are required for health care workers and visitors in patient care areas in health care settings.
In other settings, you can wear a mask if you want. And individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require mask wearing on their premises.
Masks are encouraged when travelling by air, train, public transit or BC Ferries.
Travel is allowed within BC and between provinces. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to board a plane or train in Canada.
Nor do you need proof of vaccination to enter Canada. And there are no longer COVID testing requirements. That said, the federal government is advising that if you have COVID symptoms, you shouldn't travel to Canada.
You may need proof of vaccination for international travel. Some other countries may require it to enter. For more, see the provincial government’s website.
This public health requirement ended on April 8, 2022. You don't need proof of vaccination to access businesses, events or services in BC.
“After being laid off when the pandemic first hit, I’m happy to be getting a full pay cheque again. But I’m worried what my life looks like if (when) I get COVID — or when others at my workplace get sick."
– Joseph, Victoria, BC
Yes. The BC Employment Standards Act was changed to allow part- and full-time employees to take up to three hours of paid time off work to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. You can take additional paid leave for additional doses. Employees are entitled to this leave no matter how long they’ve been employed.
As of April 2023, the BC government put an end to its COVID vaccination policy for government workers in most settings. Vaccine mandates remain in highest-risk settings where the most vulnerable live and are cared for, including facilities in the health care system.
More generally, BC’s human rights commissioner released guidance mid-pandemic that employers could, in limited circumstances, implement a vaccination status policy — that is, a policy that lets the employer treat a worker differently depending on whether they are vaccinated or not. The commissioner’s guidance highlighted that a policy could be justified only if other less intrusive means of preventing COVID transmission are inadequate for the setting and if due consideration is given to the human rights of everyone involved.
As of April 8, 2022, employers are no longer required to have a COVID safety plan and must follow communicable disease guidance instead. WorkSafeBC offers this guidance, aimed at helping prevent communicable disease in the workplace.
This has become less prevalent as the pandemic has evolved. But there are certain situations where that’s a definite yes. An example would be if you have COVID-like symptoms.
More generally, workers have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard. WorkSafeBC explains what amounts to an undue hazard. It’s an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” hazard. For COVID, an undue hazard is one where a worker’s job role places them at increased risk of exposure and adequate controls are not in place to protect them from that exposure.
In these circumstances, WorkSafeBC advises to follow these steps within your workplace to resolve the issue. The first step is reporting the unsafe condition to your employer. The employer must investigate the matter and fix it if possible. If the matter is not resolved, you and your employer must contact WorkSafeBC. A prevention officer will investigate and take steps to find a workable solution.
As of January 1, 2022, workers covered by BC’s employment standards law are entitled to five days of paid sick leave per year if they can’t work due to illness or injury. Workers covered by the employment standards law are also entitled to three days of unpaid sick leave per year, on top of the paid leave entitlement.
There’s also an unpaid sick leave due to COVID reasons. You’re entitled to indefinite unpaid leave if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse. This leave is also available if you’re in isolation or quarantine, or your employer has asked you not to work due to concern about your exposure to others. You can take this leave for as long as you need it, without putting your job at risk.
The Employment Standards Branch explains each of these types of leave.
As well, our laws prevent discrimination against workers if they have a disability. BC’s human rights commissioner views COVID as a disability. So this means if you have COVID, your employer can’t treat you differently — without justification — than someone who doesn’t have it. For example: they can ask you to work from home so that everyone can stay healthy, but they can't deny you, say, a promotion or flexible work arrangements just because you have COVID.
As of January 1, 2022, workers covered by BC’s employment standards law are entitled to five days of paid sick leave per year. To be eligible, you must have worked for your employer for at least 90 days prior to the sick day. For more, see the provincial government’s website.
If your employer has an extended health plan, you may be covered under short-term disability benefits (ask your plan administrator).
You can also apply for federal benefits. If you’re unable to work because of illness or quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic, you can apply for employment insurance sickness benefits. Here's the full list of requirements.
Yes. Your employer has to make sure all of their employees work in a safe environment. This applies whether the workplace is big or small. They can ask (and require you to tell them) if you have the illness or have been in contact with somebody who has.
They can. In some cases, they may ask you to work from home, which they can do to protect the safety of the workplace as a whole. Otherwise, if they're no longer paying you (or paying you significantly less), this would be considered a layoff.
If you’re laid off, your employer owes you any wages you’ve earned that they haven’t yet paid. They also owe you severance pay — unless it’s a valid “temporary layoff” (these are allowed only in very specific instances). The amount of severance can vary. It depends on how long you worked for them, what’s in your employment contract, and other factors. Take a look at our information on severance pay.
If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may be eligible for employment insurance benefits. In response to the pandemic, the government made temporary changes to the EI program to make it easier for workers to qualify. Those changes expired on September 24, 2022. If you establish an EI claim after that date, the regular rules apply. See the federal government's website for details.
Throughout the pandemic, the government also introduced various benefit programs to help workers affected by the crisis. As of July 6, 2022, all of these programs have expired and applications are closed. For more, see the federal government's website.
"My landlord sold their condo, and I was supposed to move out at the end of next month. But now, I’m self-isolating with a bad cough. I don’t think it’s responsible for me to move right now. I’m not sure who I can even get to help me move. I’m in a real bind here."
– Priya, Richmond, BC
No, you don’t. In fact, you don’t have to disclose any medical information to your landlord. And they can’t threaten to end your tenancy if you don’t tell them these things. You’re protected by BC privacy legislation. Even if you do tell your landlord about your health status, they’re obliged to keep the information confidential.
If your landlord pressures you on this, remind them that you have rights under privacy legislation. And you can complain to our provincial privacy commissioner if you feel your landlord has crossed the line when it comes to respecting your privacy.
During the first two years of the pandemic, the government froze rent increases. Annual rent increase notices could resume as of January 1, 2022. The annual allowable rent increase for 2024 is 3.5%. See the province's website for more details.
When the pandemic first hit, the government put in a halt on evictions. The ban ended in August 2020, and was replaced by a framework to give renters time to pay any back rent owing. That framework was repealed in July 2021. The result is that if there is unpaid rent and no repayment plan in place to extend payments, a landlord can evict you for unpaid rent.
“This pandemic made my work situation precarious. And money is tight now. With groceries, rent, loan payments, and so many other pressures, it’s hard for me to prioritize what to pay first."
– Morgan, Vancouver, BC
In the early months of the pandemic, BC Hydro offered a COVID-19 relief fund for customers unable to work due to the pandemic. That program has closed, but Hydro continues to offer other payment options. You can ask to defer payments or access grants to help pay your hydro bills.
With ICBC payments, you can ask for a one-time payment deferral of up to 90 days with no penalties.
Borrowing money from your credit card comes with fees and steep interest rates, upwards of 20% per year. Consider borrowing money from a friend or relative, or from a credit union or bank that offers lower interest rates. One option to consider is opening up a line of credit. We have resources on borrowing money and dealing with debt that might help as you consider your options.
Yes. COVID recovery benefit payments are typically taxable. You have to report any COVID recovery benefit payments you received as income when you file your personal income tax return. How much tax (if any) you’ll have to pay will depend on your overall income. The federal government walks you through the steps you need to take at tax time when filling out your tax return.
“I got a call from the 'Canada Health Authority' telling me I was eligible for COVID relief benefits. They asked for my social insurance number to 'confirm my identity', as well as my credit card, to process my benefit payments. It sounded so official, but it must have been a scam. I don't think any COVID relief programs are still operating."
– Jasper, Golden, BC
Sadly, yes. Fraudsters seek to profit from consumers' fears and uncertainties, and the spread of misinformation. Be alert. Especially for scams related to government benefit programs. Be extra suspicious if a text message asks you for your personal information.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a list of COVID-related scams to watch out for.
Airline cancellation and rebooking policies have been evolving throughout the pandemic. Some are more flexible than others. On purchasing a ticket, double-check the airline's policy on changing your flight. When in doubt, pay the extra amount for trip cancellation insurance.
Many people have found the pandemic changed the way they do things. Online services like DocuSign make signing a digital document easy and efficient. Email and texting can be very efficient ways to document the terms of an agreement. Agreements made that way can be perfectly valid contracts. The format of an agreement — paper or electronic — doesn’t matter. As long as the elements of a contract are present, it’s a contract.
“With the pandemic scare still vivid, writing a will has moved from my should-do list to a top priority. I’m a health care worker. Going to work has been a risk to my health and my family’s, so I’m not taking any more chances when it comes to my final wishes.”
– Priya, North Vancouver, BC
Yes. A change in the law made during the pandemic allows a will to be witnessed remotely. (Previously, two witnesses had to be physically present to watch you sign your will, in order for the will to be valid.) The change allows for you and your witnesses to be in each other’s electronic presence. For example, you and your witnesses might connect on a video call, each with a copy of the will, and watch each other sign the document. Here, learn how remote witnessing works.
Witnessing planning documents can now be done electronically. That is, the witness can be in the electronic presence of the person that’s signing the power of attorney or representation agreement. There are a few requirements for electronic witnessing to be valid. We explain them in our pages on preparing an enduring power of attorney and preparing an enhanced representation agreement.
Early in the pandemic, in-person court registry services were suspended. As of July 13, 2020 all Supreme Court registries re-opened for in-person services, enabling parties to again file materials at the registry.
Find out more about the probate process in our information on dealing with an estate.
“I’m in court in a few weeks time. I gather the courts are open, but is there anything I need to know beforehand about how the court is operating these days?"
– Rae, Coquitlam, BC
After being closed early in the pandemic, courts in British Columbia resumed operations in mid-2020, with extensive new protocols in place. For Provincial Court matters, please consult their notices. Notices have also been issued by the Supreme Court and Appeals Court.
The Civil Resolution Tribunal, after extending some timelines early in the pandemic, is operating normally. This online tribunal handles small claims matters up to $5,000 and certain other types of disputes.
Early in the pandemic, the province issued an order suspending all limitation periods and time periods for starting a claim or bringing an appeal in a civil or family court matter. (There was an exception for builders' liens claims.) The suspension continued until March 25, 2021. This resulted in the suspension having been in place for exactly one year. To be clear: on March 25, 2021, the suspension of limitation periods ended. If you're contemplating a court action or appeal in a civil or family matter, file your paperwork now.
For matters before tribunals (as distinct from courts), each tribunal can decide whether to suspend time periods. Check with the tribunal that is in play for your situation.
Yes, many non-profits have adapted their services, as so many have. Access Pro Bono launched a new type of legal clinic, offering low-cost fixed-fee services. Community Legal Assistance Society continues to provide assistance to eligible clients, but the logistics have changed. Legal Aid BC has the latest info here on how they are delivering their services to clients.