What are my rights if I get laid off because I have COVID?

A friend told me workplaces aren't supposed to lay people off if they're sick.

Nora

Nora

White Rock, BC

Indeed, this is against the law in BC. There is an unpaid, job-protected leave due to COVID-19 reasons. This means your job has to be there for you when you are well enough to work again.

As well, being laid off when you're ill with COVID-19 is likely discrimination. Under BC's human rights law (see here), a worker can't be treated differently than others based on a protected characteristic. A physical disability is protected in this way. And BC's human rights commissioner considers COVID-19 to be a physical disability.

Hopefully a discussion with your employer can help to clear this up. If not:

Know that you can make either or both of the above two complaints, even if you are given your job back. Often, though, it's best to try to resolve these situations amicably. We have resources available to walk you through these sorts of difficult conversations.

If you haven't done so already, consider applying for employment insurance. The EI program provides temporary payments to workers who lose their job through no fault of their own. We walk you through the steps to apply.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in January 2022

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