Right now workers in BC are being laid off and sent home without pay. Despite all of the chaos, you still have rights. After hearing so many of the injustices happening to workers right now, we’ve put together a quick guide to your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please note that this is just a guide and every individual case is unique. Some of this information is changing and we will keep this page updated with the latest info as frequently as possible. The last update was March 26th, 2020.

If you believe you are being mistreated or are owed wages, contact us for help!

Note:  If you are a unionized worker your rights might be different. Check your collective agreement or speak with your union rep.

Does your work put you at risk to COVID-19 exposure?

Your Rights:

You have the right to refuse unsafe work under the BC Workers Compensation Act. Unsafe work may be considered having to work while being sick during this pandemic. We are expecting more specific updates on this from the B.C. government.

Getting Paid:

  • If you were infected with COVID-19 through work-related exposure, you can file a WorkSafe BC claim to receive approximately 90% of your salary for the time you missed work. Call 1-888-967-5377 to file a claim.
  • WorkSafe benefits are not available for preventative self-isolation or non-work-related exposure.
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Can’t work because you need to self-isolate?

BC Health officials require you to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, have come in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, or because you have traveled outside of Canada.

Your Rights:

  • You are now entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave (e.g. you can’t be fired) if you are self-isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • You can take this leave for as long as you need it.
  • This leave is retro-active to January 27, 2020.
  • Your employer is not required to pay you sick pay.

Getting Paid:

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Did your boss send you home for being sick?

We have heard multiple accounts of workers being sent home for having a cough, or showing any symptoms related to COVID-19. Your boss is not your doctor and it’s important to know your rights.

Your Rights

  • You are now entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave (e.g. you can’t be fired) if your employer has directed you not to work due to concern about COVID-19.
  • If you have been employed for over 3 months, you are entitled to severance pay for the time that your employer doesn’t allow you to work.
  • You are also entitled to a minimum daily pay of 2 hours. For example, if you arrive to work with a cough, and your employer sends you home, you are entitled to at minimum 2 hours of pay.

Getting Paid

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Were you laid off or have your hours dramatically reduced?

Your Rights:

  • If you were fired without cause, laid off, or had your hours reduced by 50% or more without notice, you are owed severance. You must have been employed for more than 3 months to receive severance.
  • You must be paid all outstanding wages within 48 hours after being laid off or terminated, including vacation pay.
  • Your employer may ask you to sign an agreement that you are on a “temporary lay off” and will be rehired, but you should know that you are not owed severance pay if you sign this agreement.

Getting Paid

  • You can apply for the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit. 
  • Contact us for help filing a complaint with the BC Employment Standards Branch if your boss owes you severance, unpaid wages, or vacation pay.
  • The amount of notice or severance pay, that you are owed, is calculated based on how long you have been employed. You must have been employed for a minimum of 3 months.
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Do you need to stay home from work to take care of your kid or a sick family member?

Your Rights:

  • You are now entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave (e.g. you can’t be fired) for an unlimited amount of time to care for a child because of school or daycare closures.
  • You are allowed up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a critically-ill family member over 19 years old, and 36 weeks for a family member under 19.

Getting Paid

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Getting financial help: Info about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Employment Insurance


The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) 

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2000 a month for up to 4 months for people who have lost income due to COVID-19.
  • You must have made over $5000 in the past year via. Employment, self-employment, EI, or parental leave benefits to qualify.
  • Apply on the CRA My Account website or Service Canada My Account website, and a yet to be released toll-free number starting early April.
  • First payment should be received 10 days after submitting the application.
  • There is more information here.

If you are already receiving EI regular or sickness benefits as of March 25th, 2020:

  • You will continue to receive those benefits. You should not apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
  • You will not receive a top-up even if your EI benefits are less than CERB.

If you applied for EI but your application is still being processed:

  • You don’t need to re-apply for CERB: your claim will be automatically changed over to CERB.

Still out of work after CERB runs out?

  • If you are still unemployed after CERB runs out you can apply for regular EI benefits after October 3, 2020.
  • If you are not eligible for EI, there are currently no other Federal benefits available.

Am I eligible for EI and how do I apply?

  • Apply online. You can call 1-800-206-7218 if you need help (note there is a high volume of calls right now).
    You need to have worked a certain number of hours in the last year to be eligible: find out how many here.
  • You will need a Record of Employment saying you’ve been laid off from your employer. If your employer has not given you your Record of Employment, we can help.
  • EI is equal to 55% of your insurable earnings (this may include tips: see note below)
  • There is a 1-week wait period (so you will not be paid for 1 week)

Do tips count as income for EI?

You may be able to include tips as  insurable earnings when you apply for EI. It depends on whether your tips are “controlled tips” or “direct tips”

  • Controlled tips: tips an employer controls or possesses and pays to the employee. (e.g. tips allocated to employees using a tipping pool, a tip-sharing formula determined by the employer, or employer adds a mandatory service charge to a client’s bill to cover tips)
  • Direct tips: tips an employer has no control over. (e.g. a customer leaves a tip and the server keeps the whole amount, or when employees and not the employer decide how the tips are pooled or shared). For more examples see the CRA policy controlled vs direct tips.
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