“I get that the COVID rules need to adapt to what's happening on the ground, but man, they change often. It’s tough to find up-to-date, reliable information on what's allowed and what's not."
– Hugo, Vancouver, BC
The coronavirus outbreak has dramatically impacted so much about our lives. We’re here to help with answers to common legal questions on public health restrictions, travel, vaccines, masks, work, home, money, consumer, wills, business, and courts.
Updated October 3, 2022. We're updating this page regularly as developments unfold.
Public health restrictions
There are limited restrictions in place right now, mainly to do with rules around visiting long-term care homes. Check out the government’s guidance for more details.
We're in a transition phase, so some businesses might keep certain restrictions in place, even if they aren't required by the government.
Bars, nightclubs and lounges are now open. Dancing is also now allowed at nightclubs 🕺💃🏽.
Gyms, fitness activities and sports can operate at full capacity.
We’re back to pre-pandemic protocols on kids’ activities.
Yes, you can. There are no capacity restrictions on worship services and choirs.
Travel is allowed within BC.
Yes. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to board a plane or train in Canada. And as of October 1, 2022, wearing a mask is optional.
As of October 1, 2022 there aren't any more COVID-related travel restrictions. This means, among other things, no ArriveCAN app to fill out and no vaccination and testing requirements.
This public health requirement ended on April 8, 2022. You don't need proof of vaccination to access businesses, events or services in BC. You may need proof of vaccination for international travel. For more, see the provincial government’s website.
According to BC’s human rights commissioner, employers could, in certain circumstances, implement a vaccination status policy. This would be any policy that lets the employer treat a worker differently depending on whether they are vaccinated or not.
Every workplace is different. There’s no easy answer that says, for example, “if you work in retail, then yes, your employer can implement a vaccine status policy.” That being said, the safety of workers and customers is always a top priority, and public health indicates that vaccines are effective at keeping COVID at bay.
If a policy is going to be put in place, the commissioner advises that it be for necessary reasons. These reasons would typically follow the health and safety guidelines we’ve been seeing throughout the pandemic, like:
Do our employees interact with the public?
Does our workplace allow for proper social distancing?
Is our workforce generally good at following COVID-related protocols, like washing hands, staying home when they have symptoms, and isolating if they’ve been in contact with someone who has had COVID?
Employers also need to strike a balance. Not all workers are in the same situation. Some, for example, might experience barriers to vaccination if they live in a remote community, have a disability, or are undocumented migrant workers.
If a vaccination status policy is put in place, employers can create exemptions. In doing so, BC’s human rights commissioner says the employer can create a requirement for some or all staff to wear a face mask, work at a physical distance from others, work a modified shift, get periodic tests for COVID-19, work remotely, or accept a reassignment to a setting that poses less risk of transmission.
What every workplace can do, though, is create open communication channels for how vaccination status requirements can be handled. Through effective consultation and communication, a workplace can get aligned on the appropriate vaccination policy. This doesn’t mean every worker will be happy with the chosen policy, but at the very least they’ll be properly informed.
There’s no legal requirement for employers to have a vaccination status policy in place. And there’s no law that says if some workers aren’t vaccinated, others can just opt to work from home. Unless your employment contract allows for it, working remotely is not a right; it’s a privilege.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful in convincing your employer. Much will depend on the circumstances, like:
Are you in close contact with these people at work?
Does your workplace have a policy that exempts certain people from not being vaccinated, and do these people have an exemption?
Can you do your job effectively from a remote location?
Effective communication is key here. If you present a strict demand or ultimatum, it may not go over well. But if you position your pitch as a request that will benefit the entire organization, it could help your cause.
Determine who you need to talk to first about this. Is it somebody in HR? Or just your direct report? Next, prepare your talking points. To help build your confidence, check out our primer on having tough talks with your boss. You want to come off as confident and measured. Relate your reasons to your personal situation at home, and be sure to explain how you’ll be able to be as productive working remotely. Perhaps prepare a schedule in advance, which includes routine check-ins with your supervisors.
What if they say no? Again, unless it’s part of your employment contract, being able to work remotely isn’t automatic. If you’d like to pursue the matter further, you could talk to a lawyer to understand your options.
The province is no longer requiring that masks be worn in indoor public spaces. But you can wear them if you want. Masks are encouraged on public transit and BC Ferries.
During this transition time, some people may still feel more comfortable wearing masks, and that’s at their discretion. And some businesses may still insist that their customers wear masks.
“After being laid off when the pandemic first hit, I’m happy to be getting a full pay cheque again. But it still doesn’t feel like my workplace is safe. Is there anything I can do if I feel uncomfortable?"
– 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.
This has become less prevalent as the pandemic has evolved. But there are certain situations where that’s a definite yes. Examples would be if you have COVID-19-like symptoms, have been told to isolate by public health authorities, or have arrived from outside of Canada in the last 10 days and tested positive for COVID.
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-19, 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 April 8, 2022, employers are no longer required to have a COVID-19 safety plan and must follow communicable disease guidance instead. WorkSafeBC offers this guidance, aimed at helping prevent communicable disease in the workplace.
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” (check out our question below about this type of layoff). 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.
A temporary layoff is a specific type of layoff where employers don’t have to pay severance. But employers can’t do this unless at least one of these three things applies: you’re in an industry where layoffs are standard practice (for example, forestry), you agree to the layoff, or it’s in your employment contract. The pandemic, on its own, does not give your employer a legal right to lay you off temporarily.
If none of the reasons above apply, then you have a right to receive severance pay. The amount depends on how long you worked for them, what’s in your contract, and other factors.
If they’re allowed, temporary layoffs still can’t last forever (they call ‘em temporary for good reason). Generally, it’s a maximum of 13 weeks. If your employer isn’t ready to recall you back to work after 13 weeks of layoff, they have two options. They can apply to extend the temporary layoff, or they can pay you severance. In applying for an extension, the employer must show that at least half of affected employees support the application. The Employment Standards Branch has details of the process.
While you’re laid off, you can apply for federal benefits. You may be eligible for employment insurance, a government program to help people who are out of work. Here are the details.
If you’re still working full-time, then cutting your salary in half could be considered constructive dismissal. This is when your employer changes your job in a major way, and you don’t agree to it. If you want to quit over this, you’d likely be entitled to severance pay. But proving constructive dismissal is no small matter. You may choose to discuss the situation with your employer, perhaps reducing your hours to part-time to match up with the reduced salary.
If your work hours are reduced because your workplace has to slow down because of the pandemic, you can apply for employment insurance benefits. (To qualify, you need to, among other things, have gone at least seven days without work and without pay.) Here's the full list of requirements.
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-19 reasons. You’re entitled to indefinite unpaid leave if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 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. This leave is also available for other coronavirus-related reasons, such as if you’re unable to return to work due to travel restrictions. 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-19 as a disability. So this means if you have COVID-19, 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-19.
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.
Employees in BC have their wages backstopped against layoffs. A self-employed person doesn’t, unless they register themselves and pay into the employment insurance system.
Those who do register can get EI sickness benefits, paid to those who can’t work for medical reasons. Here's who can qualify.
The laws in BC provide for unpaid leaves of absence, where an employee can take time off without pay and still have their job waiting for them when they get back. As of January 1, 2022, there’s also a paid leave of absence available to those who are too ill or injured to work. We explain personal and family leaves and sick leave, and offer tips on how to ask for a leave.
The amount of leave varies, depending on the type of leave. Employees get five days of paid leave and three days of unpaid leave each year if they can't work due to personal illness or injury. They also get five days of unpaid leave per year to care for someone in their immediate family. They get between 16 to 36 weeks to care for a family member (depending on their age) that is critically ill.
In addition, there’s a specific type of leave related to COVID-19. You’re entitled to indefinite unpaid leave if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse. It’s also available for other coronavirus-related reasons, such as being unable to return to work due to travel restrictions.
Note that these rules only cover “employees,” not contractors or gig-economy workers.
As well, under our human rights laws, employers must not discriminate against people based on certain personal characteristics (for example, religion, disabilities, or family status). If you’re disadvantaged at work because of one of these personal characteristics, your employer has a duty to accommodate you. If you have kids to take care of, it’s likely your employer has to take reasonable steps to accommodate you. But you should take certain steps here before asking for extended leave time. For example, you might see if family members can help, or if child care is available.
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 also require you to self-quarantine if you’ve recently returned from a coronavirus outbreak hotspot.
Your employer can also remind you to wash your hands and tell you to be prepared to work from home.
"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
From April to August 2020, a BC government program offered temporary rent support for those who lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. That program has ended. Renters still experiencing a loss of income may be eligible for rental assistance for lower-income families and older adults. See the BC Housing website for details and full eligibility requirements.
The government also froze rent increases until December 31, 2021. Annual rent increase notices could resume as of January 1, 2022. The annual allowable rent increase for 2022 is 1.5%. For 2023, the maximum increase is 2%.
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.
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.
Our step-by-step guide explains your rights and options if you have difficulties paying your mortgage.
Early in the pandemic, the province expanded bc211, a helpline that provides information about community, government and social services. Anyone in the province can now call 211 to learn where they can find help — and how they can offer help.
Starting with payments issued in April 2021, people on income assistance and disability assistance automatically receive a permanent $175 per month increase. Also, during the pandemic, the province has stopped deducting EI or federal pandemic relief benefits from welfare payments.
For vulnerable segments of the population, authorities have relaxed some of the rules. For example, the province introduced new clinical guidance to help reduce the risks to people who use substances. The guidance recommends that health care providers prescribe safe alternatives to the illegal drug supply.
“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
Between March and June 2020, 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.
ICBC continues to allow payment deferrals 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.
Starting with payments issued in April 2021, people on income assistance and disability assistance automatically receive a permanent $175 per month increase.
Also, for the first time since it was introduced in the 1980's, the senior’s supplement was increased. This support for low-income older adults went up by $50 per recipient.
As well, during the pandemic, the province has stopped deducting EI or federal pandemic relief benefits from welfare payments.
Between May to August 2020, the federal government’s emergency student benefit provided financial support for post-secondary students and recent graduates who couldn’t find work or made less than $1,000 per month due to coronavirus.
The federal government also placed a six-month interest-free freeze on all Canada student loans, from March 30 to September 30, 2020. No payment was required and interest didn't add up during this time. Students didn’t need to apply for the repayment pause. The province similarly froze all BC student loan payments for six months, also effective March 30.
Yes. CERB and other recovery benefit payments are typically taxable. You have to report any CERB and 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 tested positive for COVID-19. They followed up with a text message saying I was eligible for government benefits. They asked for my social insurance number and personal health 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 wasn't tested recently for COVID-19."
– 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 the 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-19 related scams to watch out for.
Most airlines introduced flexible cancellation or rebooking policies in response to the pandemic. In many cases, they are waiving change fees or providing credit for future travel if you’d like to cancel. Best to try to accomplish as much as you can online — their call centers continue to be busy.
There are online services available, like DocuSign or HelloSign, that make online signing easy and efficient. It may be best to ask a lawyer or notary public for specific advice here, since some documents have very particular requirements for in-person signatures or witnessing.
“With the pandemic scare still vivid, writing a will has moved from my should-do list to a top priority. I'm a childcare worker. When you’re caring for little ones — you hold them, you feed them — it’s impossible to practise physical distancing. I’m proud to do my part. But 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.
For more on what this might look like and the legal requirements for the remote witnessing of wills, see preparing or updating your will during coronavirus.
If coronavirus poses a higher risk to you because of your occupation or health condition, there are some extra things to consider in preparing a will. These will depend on your particular circumstances, but may include:
how to make plans for — and provide for — any young children
planning for what you want to happen if both you and your spouse were to pass away
updating records of what you own and owe, and handing over digital passwords, to make things easier for your executor, should the worst come to pass
getting other documents in place, like a power of attorney or a representation agreement, to clarify who will handle your financial or health affairs should you become incapable
Our page on preparing or updating your will during coronavirus walks you through these considerations — and other things to plan for at this time.
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, and parties may file materials at the registry. While in-person filing is an option, the court strongly encourages e-filing, faxing, or mailing your documents to the registry. Here are contact details for registry locations.
Find out more about the probate process in our information on dealing with an estate.
No. From May 2020, there were temporary measures in place to allow for the remote signing and witnessing of powers of attorney. But as of December 31, 2021, those measures no longer apply.
This means if you want to prepare a power of attorney, you’ll have to physically meet with two witnesses (or one, if your witness is a lawyer or notary public).
There are steps you can take to get your power of attorney signed and witnessed at a safe distance. Here are some practical tips:
Ideally, the signing should be done outside.
Each person should stay at least two metres away from every other person, and each person should wear a mask.
Everyone should bring their own pens.
Use hand sanitizer. Don’t lick your fingers to turn pages. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap once you’ve finished.
And critically: follow guidance given by public health authorities and your own health care providers.
Here’s one more suggestion. If you feel you or your witnesses need an extra layer of protection, you might consider signing your power of attorney in the safety of your own car, or home, with your witnesses watching on through a window. Open the window and pass the document to each witness, for each of them to sign.
Preparing an enduring power of attorney is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to plan for your financial future. If you’re ready to get started, see our information on preparing an enduring power of attorney.
One day, you might become unable to make decisions for yourself — important decisions about your body and your health care. With a representation agreement, you can authorize someone to make these decisions for you.
From May 2020, there were temporary measures in place to allow for the remote signing and witnessing of representation agreements. But as of December 31, 2021, those measures no longer apply.
This means if you want to prepare a representation agreement, you’ll have to physically meet with two witnesses (or one, if your witness is a lawyer or notary public).
There are steps you can take to get your representation agreement signed and witnessed at a safe distance. We offer some suggestions in the question above on making a power of attorney.
We can also help you figure out what kind of representation agreement is the right fit for you. You can then continue onto our information on preparing an enhanced representation agreement or preparing a standard representation agreement.
“I run a small print shop over in East Vancouver. I’ve had to lay off a few employees. I’m still open, but just barely keeping the lights on. One of my biggest clients owes me a bunch of money, but now says they won’t pay me this month."
– Sydney, Vancouver, BC
There were programs running in 2020 and 2021, but many have expired. Keep this page in mind when reviewing what programs are still available and the evolving eligibility criteria.
This can depend. If you have a written contract with this client, check to see if there is a force majeure clause. Often called an act of God clause, it may let people get out of their contractual duties because of an unforseen event beyond their control. But it’s not for certain. It often requires a reasonable level of effort by both parties to mitigate their situation.
This is a tough time for everyone. Best to communicate openly, either orally or in writing, to try to reach a compromise.
“I’m confused as to whether in my court case I have extra time to file a claim or counterclaim."
– 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 continues to operate normally, though it did extend some timelines. 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.
Legal Aid BC continues to provide legal aid services. You can apply for legal aid by phone, and in some (but not all) locations, in-person service is also available once again. Find the latest info here. The full range of Legal Aid BC’s online services remain open, such as the LiveHelp chat service on their Family Law website.
Yes, but non-profits have adapted their services during the pandemic, as so many have. Access Pro Bono ramped up their telephone advice service. CLAS continues to provide assistance to eligible clients, but the logistics changed.
At BC’s land title authority, front counter services are open by appointment only. You can still register property sales and other title interests through their online services.
Legal Aid BC continues to provide services over the phone at 604-408-2172 or 1-866-577-2525, and in-person at some (but not all) locations. Find the latest info here. Their legal information outreach workers can provide information by phone on coronavirus-related legal issues.
Justice Education Society helps with coronavirus-related legal questions on its Ask JES phone and chat lines. Call or text 1-855-875-8867 or access live chat between 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Friday.
Clicklaw, operated by Courthouse Libraries BC, aggregates COVID-19 resources from a range of agencies in BC.
Justice Education Society operates a website with COVID-19 legal information.
On their Family Law website, Legal Aid BC has posted Q&As on coronavirus and family law issues.