Today the provincial government announced its plans for reopening the economy. Of significance to employers are the following comments made by the Premier:
- More businesses, including retail establishments and restaurants, will be permitted to open in or around mid-May, while maintaining public health guidelines.
- WorkSafe BC, in conjunction with the Public Health Office, are working to create industry specific guidelines to help employers return their employees to work.
- The provincial government is working with the public health office and the federal government to ensure that workers do not come to work when they are ill, not just during the pandemic but beyond. This may mean changes to workers compensation/occupational health and safety laws and/or federal EI programs.
WorkSafe BC guidance on what constitutes a safe workplace during these times will be welcome to employers who want to avoid work refusals and occupational health and safety complaints. At the same time, employees will likely be less anxious returning to work when they are assured that their employer is adhering to pandemic-specific occupational heath and safety guidelines.
We expect that given the tone of the Premier’s comments regarding sick employees coming to work (i.e. they are “not heroes but villains”), we will see robust job protection and compensation for employees who become ill during the pandemic and in the future.
We will continue to monitor legislation as it is introduced and provide further updates here. In the interim, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of Clark Wilson LLP’s employment and labour lawyers for assistance.