We’ve put together a guide to your rights as a worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know this is a lot of information and it’s challenging for everyone. If you could use back-up, contact us for help!

Please note that each individual situation 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 May 27, 2020.

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

I work in a restaurant or retail store. What is my employer supposed to do to keep me safe at work?

Find the full up to date information about what protocols your workplace must follow on the WorkSafeBC website:

Here are some things that are required:

  • Your workplace must develop a COVID safety plan to reduce risk of COVID transmission. The plan must be posted at the worksite and should explain how your employer is protecting workers from COVID 19 exposure.
  • Employers must include workers when creating their safety plans to make sure workers’ concerns are taken into account.
  • Your employer must also follow all relevant orders from the Provincial Health Officer. For example, the health officer has ordered that restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. must not exceed 50% of their usual capacity of patrons at one time. Customer parties can’t be larger than 6 people and tables must be at least 2 metres apart.
  • If you work in a retail store, your employer must limit the number of customers in the store, create an environment where customers can practice safe physical distancing of 2 metres (including distancing from you!)
  • Customers with symptoms must stay away from the store. Your employer should put up signs at the door communicating that customers with symptoms cannot enter. Employers are also obliged to ask customers who arrive with cold, flu, or COVID-like symptoms to return home and use a delivery service instead.
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My employer doesn’t have a COVID safety plan and/ I feel unsafe at work. What can I do?

You can contact us! Fill out this form or phone us at 250-812-3724

  • WorkSafe BC protects your right to refuse unsafe work where there is an undue hazard to the health and safety of the worker. An undue hazard is anything that carries “unwarranted” or “disproportionate” risk.
  • If you are unsure as to whether what you are experiencing constitutes an unsafe workplace, you can contact WorkSafe at 1-888-621-7233.
  • If you refuse unsafe work you must immediately report it to your employer or supervisor, who is required to investigate and fix it immediately. If your employer doesn’t solve the issue and you still think conditions are unsafe, you can tell them they are obligated to investigate the matter again in the presence of you and another worker. If you are unionized they must investigate with you and a union representative.
  • If the matter remains unresolved, contact Worksafe at 1-888-621-7233. A prevention officer will come in to investigate. Your employer must not require you to perform unsafe work during this process.
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What if I get in trouble for refusing unsafe work or reporting my workplace?

You can contact us! Fill out this form or phone us at 250-812-3724.

It’s illegal for your employer to penalize you for raising a health or safety issue.  Find out exactly what actions are illegal here.

  • If you are in this situation, you can file a complaint with WorkSafe.
  • You will have to speak with a prevention officer, and then fill out a form about what took place. Then you should hear back within 48 hours.
  • Common remedies include removing things from your record, paying back wages you lost, and giving you your job back.
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What do I do if I’m sick?

If you have symptoms associated with COVID-19 you must self-isolate for 14 days and stay home from work. Symptoms include: sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Your Rights:

  • You are entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave (e.g. you can’t be fired) if:
    • You are self-isolating or in quarantine due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or if you are sick;
    • Your employer has directed you not to work out of concern about your exposure to others.
  • You can take this leave for as long as you need it.
  • This leave is retro-active to January 27, 2020 (e.g. if you were fired after this date you must be reinstated).

Getting Paid:

  • Your employer is not yet required to pay you sick pay. But, the government just announced paid sick days are on the way! Stay tuned to our website or social media for announcements. And sign the petition for paid sick days here!
  • If you have to self-isolate for a long time you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
  • If your employer sends you home from work for being sick, you are 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.
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Is there help if I contract COVID-19 at work?

You can file a WorkSafe BC claim for COVID-19 virus infection contracted as a direct result of your employment. Call WorkSafe at 1-888-967-5377.

You can receive compensation if these two conditions are met:

  • You were diagnosed with COVID-19 OR have factual evidence that establishes that you have COVID-19.
  • The risk of contracting COVID at your workplace is significantly higher than ordinary exposure.
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I was laid off or my hours were 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. You are not legally required to sign it.

Getting Paid

  • You can apply for Canada and BC emergency benefits. 
  • 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 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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I need to stay home from work to care for a sick family member or kid who can’t go to school

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

  • You can apply for Canada and BC emergency benefits. 
  • The Federal government is increasing the Canada Child Benefit to an extra $300 per child. This is an automatic benefit scheduled for May and if you already receive the Child Benefit you don’t need to apply. If you don’t already get the Child Benefit, apply here.
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Getting financial help

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

CERB provides $2000 a month for up to 4 months for people who have lost income due to COVID-19.

  • CERB applies to people who have lost their job, are sick, are quarantining, or are taking care of someone with COVID 19. It also covers employed parents who must stay home without pay to care for their children.
  • CERB also applies to workers who are still employed but aren’t receiving income because of COVID related work disruptions.
  • And, with new eligibility rules, you are also allowed to earn up to $1,000 a month while also collecting CERB (a change retroactive to March 15 2020)
  • CERB also now applies to seasonal workers who have run out of the EI regular benefits and cannot undertake their regular seasonal job because of COVID.
  • To qualify, you must have made over $5000 in the past year via. Employment, self-employment, EI, or parental leave benefits to qualify.
  • You can’t voluntarily quit your job and receive CERB.
  • Apply on the CRA My Account website or Service Canada My Account website.
  • First payment should be received 10 days after submitting the application
  • There is more information here.

The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

The BC government is providing a one-time payment of $1000 to people who have already been approved for CERB. Apply here.

If you are already receiving EI regular benefits before COVID:

  • You will continue to receive those benefits. If your regular EI benefits run out between Dec 29 1019 and Oct 3 2020 you will qualify for CERB. 
  • If your EI benefits are less than CERB, you will not receive a top-up.

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.

I’m a student and now because of COVID I won’t have a summer job

  • Good news! The new Canada Emergency Student Benefit provides funding from May to August for high school and post-secondary students and recent graduates who can’t work or find a job because of COVID. Apply online here.
  • The Student Benefit provides $1,250/ month, or $2,000/month for students with dependents or disabilities. (You can’t get CERB and the Student Benefit at the same time)
  • You can also work and earn up to $1,000/month while also receiving the Student Benefit.
  • Note: Right now, many international and migrant students don’t qualify. Migrant Students United is calling on the government to support migrant students during COVID 19. Support their call here!
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What about my mental health? What support is out there?

The BC government is expanding free and accessible online mental health support. Here’s a list of programs you can access.

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Workers are not expendable! Help us fight for paid sick days in BC.

Get started by signing our petition

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