COVID-19: B.C.’s Updates & Recovery Plan for Businesses

 

The Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) is focused on helping its members and staff keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the situation evolves, updates will be provided below with the newest information added on top.

 

June 14, 2021

B.C. Moves to Step 2 of Its Restart Plan

Beginning on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, British Columbia will take the next step in safely bringing people back together, transitioning into Step 2 of B.C.’s restart plan, including lifting restrictions on travel within B.C.

The transition into Step 2 of the four-step restart plan aligns with key metrics for moving forward. More than 75 percent of adults are vaccinated with their first dose, exceeding the target Step 2 minimum threshold of 65 percent. The other metrics for moving through the stages—COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations—continue to steadily decline.
Moving from Step 1 to Step 2 includes:

  • B.C. recreational travelnon-essential travel ban lifted. Out-of-province non-essential travel advisory continues;
  • maximum of 50 people for outdoor personal gatherings;
  • maximum of 50 people for indoor seated organized gatherings (e.g., movie theatres, live theatre, banquet halls) with safety plans;
  • indoor faith gatheringsa maximum of 50 people, or 10 percent of a place of worship’s total capacity, whichever number is greater with safety plans;
  • maximum of 50 spectators for outdoor sports;
  • liquor service at restaurants, bars and pubs extended until midnight; and
  • indoor sports games (no spectators) and high-intensity fitness with safety plans.

All other capacity limits and guidelines listed in Step 1 stay in place unless noted in the list above.

The earliest target start date for Step 3 is July 1, and September 7 for Step 4. Businesses can expect to see updated guidance available through WorkSafeBC’s website prior to July 1. Businesses will then adapt their safety plans to reflect this updated guidance.

Learn more

June 3, 2021

COVID-19 Sick Leave Reimbursement

Effective May 20, 2021, employers are required to offer their employees three days of paid sick leave if they need to stay home as a result of circumstances related to COVID-19. As an employer, you can apply for a reimbursement, if your workplace does not have an existing paid sick leave program.

In order to apply for the B.C. government’s COVID-19 Paid Sick-Leave Reimbursement Program, administered by WorkSafeBC, you need to sign up for WorkSafeBC’s online services.

Through this program, which will be available starting June 15, employers can apply to be reimbursed for up to three days of wages paid to workers for COVID-19-related sick leave.

How to apply:

In order to apply for the B.C. government’s COVID-19 Sick-Leave Reimbursement Program, employers must:

·        Be registered for WorkSafeBC insurance coverage

·        Have signed up for WorkSafeBC’s online services

·        Not have an existing paid sick-leave program

Create your online-services account

Watch this short video to learn how to create your online-services account, then visit worksafebc.com to sign up. For technical issues related to setting up your account, please contact WorkSafeBC’s technical support team.

For more information

For questions about the program, please visit the B.C. government’s COVID-19 Paid Sick-Leave Reimbursement program website.

May 25, 2021

B.C. Launches a Four-Step Restart Plan

The BC government has announced a four-step plan to gradually lift restrictions in the province, with safety and health protocols such as mask wearing and physical distancing remaining in place and mandatory during the initial two steps of the plan. Four steps:

Step 1: May 25  
  • 60% of adult population with Dose 1
  • COVID-19 cases stable, hospitalizations stable
    • Maximum of five visitors or one household allowed for indoor personal gatherings
    • Maximum of 10 people for outdoor personal gatherings
    • Maximum of 10 people for seated indoor organized gatherings with safety protocols
    • Maximum of 50 people for seated outdoor organized gatherings with safety protocols
    • Recreational travel only within travel region (travel restrictions extended)
    • Indoor and outdoor dining for up to six people with safety protocols
    • Resume outdoor sports (games) with no spectators, low-intensity fitness with safety protocols
    • Start gradual return to workplaces
    • Provincewide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place
    • Return of indoor in-person faith-based gatherings (reduced capacity) based on consultation with public health
Step 2: Mid-June (June 15 – earliest date)
  • 65% of adult population with Dose 1
  • Cases declining, COVID-19 hospitalizations declining
    • Maximum of 50 people for outdoor social gatherings
    • Maximum of 50 people for seated indoor organized gatherings (banquet halls, movie theatres, live theatre) with safety protocols
    • Consultation process to prepare for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings with safety protocols
    • No B.C. travel restrictions – check local travel advisories
    • Indoor sports (games) and high-intensity fitness with safety protocols
    • Spectators for outdoor sports (50 maximum)
    • Provincewide mask mandate, business safety protocols and physical distancing measures remain in place
Step 3: Early July (July 1 – earliest date) 
  • 70% of adult population with Dose 1
  • Cases low, COVID-19 hospitalizations declining
    • Provincial state of emergency and public health emergency lifted
    • Returning to usual for indoor and outdoor personal gatherings
    • Increased capacity for indoor and outdoor organized gatherings, with safety plans
    • Nightclubs and casinos reopen with capacity limits and safety plans
    • New public health and workplace guidance around personal protective equipment, physical distancing and business protocols
Step 4: Early September (Sept. 7 – earliest date)
  • More than 70% of adult population with Dose 1
  • Cases low and stable (contained clusters), COVID-19 hospitalizations low
    • Returning to normal social contact
    • Increased capacity at larger organized gatherings
    • No limits on indoor and outdoor spectators at sports
    • Businesses operating with new safety plans

Progressing through the steps will be measured by the number of adults vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations and deaths, taking into account clusters and outbreaks. While there are approximate dates, the plan will be guided by data, not dates, and will not proceed to the next step until it is safe to do so based on guidance from public health and the latest available data.

May 6, 2021

Expedited Workplace Closures - What Employers Can Expect

On April 11, 2021, an order of the provincial health officer (PHO) delegated specific powers to WorkSafeBC prevention officers. The order provides WorkSafeBC prevention officers the ability to serve a 10-day closure order on an employer with COVID-19 transmission when directed so by a medical health officer. WorkSafeBC’s role is well defined and narrow in scope, with no role in deciding which workplaces will be served with a closure order. Questions regarding the closure order itself are referred to the Health Authority Medical Health Officer.

When WorkSafeBC prevention officers deliver a closure order to affected workplaces, they will also help the employer understand their need to review their COVID-19 safety plan and make any necessary changes during the closure period. WorkSafeBC will be available to provide guidance around reviewing and updating COVID-19 safety plans.

Then, once the workplace has re-opened, WorkSafeBC will conduct an inspection to review the employer’s COVID-19 safety plan and ensure the employer is effectively implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Findings from COVID-19 Inspections

Throughout the pandemic, WorkSafeBC has been engaging employers to ensure that protocols identified in their COVID-19 safety plan have been effectively reviewed, updated, and implemented, and that exposure to COVID-19 is being effectively managed in the workplace. This includes issuing an inspection report with orders in cases where improvements to COVID-19 safety plans and protocols are required.

WorkSafeBC recently analyzed 1,600 COVID-19 orders to identify the controls most frequently identified as needing improvement. They include:

Physical Distancing
  • Ensure physical distance of 2 metres is maintained between workers and others whenever possible, especially in shared spaces; consider changing the layout of workspaces to enable physical distancing in all work and break areas.
  • Provide physical barriers such as Plexiglas if physical distancing between workers and customers cannot be maintained.
Signage
  • Post signage that reminds workers of the controls in place, including occupancy limits, handwashing practices, health-check requirements, and entrance restrictions.
  • Use physical queue controls, such as crowd-control cones or floor markers to regulate traffic and physical distancing.
Policies and Protocols
  • Develop and post a COVID-19 safety plan that identifies and addresses the risks in all areas of the workplace.
  • Ensure there are posted policies for employer and visitor daily health screening.
Training
  • Ensure health and safety information and training is provided in the required languages so it can be understood by everyone at the workplace.
Supervision and Monitoring
  • Communicate safety programs and policies clearly to workers through information-sharing, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure the controls in place are being followed.
Facilities
  • Provide adequate hand-washing facilities on site for all workers.
  • Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer at key areas of your workplace (near pay stations, in break rooms, etc.).
Personal Protective Equipment
  • Make sure appropriate masks are available and being used properly for the work being carried out.

For more information about all aspects of a COVID-19 safety plan, please refer to the following resources:

Reporting COVID-19 Exposure Claims

Employers and workers should continue to report a workplace injury or disease during this time, including those involving a work-related exposure to COVID-19. Contracting COVID-19 in the workplace may be considered a work-related occupational disease, and affected staff members have the right to make a claim and could be eligible for health care and wage-loss benefits.

For information on when and how to report a COVID-19 illness to WorkSafeBC, please visit the Claims COVID-19 pages on worksafebc.com for information for both workers and employers.

April 19, 2021

Paid Leave for Workers to get COVID-19 Vaccine

The B.C. government has introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act that, if passed, will provide workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. The amendments ensure no one will lose pay if they need time away from work to get vaccinated. “We know that many workers can’t afford to lose pay, and we need to make sure that it’s as easy as possible for workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Harry Bains, minister of labour. “This paid leave will ensure that no one will have to choose between losing pay and getting their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.” These amendments expand on the regulatory improvements made on April 1, 2021, that currently provide job-protected leave for workers to take as much time as they need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The changes to the act will allow employees to take up to three hours of paid leave to get their COVID-19 vaccine, for each dose. “We are pleased with the news that the B.C. government is mandating paid time off for all workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations,” said Kim Novak, president, UFCW 1518. “Today’s announcement means a critical barrier has been removed for workers—they no longer have to choose between getting paid at work or getting their life-saving vaccinations. This is a big step in the right direction and a big win for workers, especially those who have been working on the front lines throughout this pandemic. They have been hit hard and no longer must worry about having their paycheque deducted for getting their vaccines. We thank Minister Bains and the B.C. government for acting swiftly on this legislation.” This paid leave will support the timeline of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan for when the majority of working-aged people in the province will receive their vaccines. “Bringing in a paid leave for a set few hours for staff to get a vaccination is an opportunity for businesses to look at this as an investment in a future free of COVID-19, which will be good for their business and their bottom line, and ultimately economic recovery for all industries,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. The Ministry of Labour consulted with the business community, labour organizations, Indigenous partners and other stakeholders in developing this legislation to balance paid leave with supports for employers. Businesses suffering from the economic impact of COVID-19 can access direct financial support through the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant and the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant program. “The best thing for all of us—for employers, workers, seniors, our health-care system and our communities—is to bring an end to the pandemic, which we can do through a strong immunization plan that works for everyone in B.C.,” Bains said. If passed, the effective date will be retroactive to the date of introduction (April 19, 2021).

April 8, 2021

Applications Open for Hiring Tax Credit

Applications are now open online for the Increased Employment Incentive (IEI), which was announced as a part of StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan.

This credit sets aside up to $190 million for businesses that were able to hire new workers, hire back people who were let go or increase workers’ hours during the last three months of 2020.

“We consulted the business community last year about measures that would help them get back on their feet and build their confidence,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “The Increased Employment Incentive supports businesses that invested in people during an uncertain time in the last few months of 2020 – investments that helped get people back to work quickly.”

With 2020 payrolls finalized, businesses will know if they are eligible for a credit that could equal up to 15 percent of any increase in total eligible payroll paid in the last quarter of 2020. The tax credit could be as much as $2,230 per employee.

“In B.C. we have provided the highest per capita support for businesses and people of any province in Canada,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “This initiative is one of several programs we’ve rolled out to help businesses get through the pandemic and thrive over the long term while putting people back to work.”

The credit is available to all employers in B.C., except for public institutions and political parties. For employers required to pay the employer health tax (EHT), the credit will be first applied to any EHT outstanding and will be available as a refund to the extent the credit exceeds the amount of EHT or other debt owed to government.

Businesses that are registered and liable for EHT are encouraged to file their 2020 EHT return before applying for the IEI to ensure no delay in receiving the tax credit.

The IEI is one of several provincial supports to help businesses recover and respond to the unprecedented economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other supports include a provincial sales tax rebate on select machinery and equipment investments to help businesses adapt and grow, the Small- and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant, and grants to help businesses launch or upgrade online stores.

PST Rebate for Capital Investments

Businesses can grow back bigger and stronger following the pandemic, with up to half-billion dollars in expected rebates available for purchases or leases of select machinery and equipment including tools, furniture, computers, software and zero-emission vehicles. 

“This measure is a direct response to what we heard when we consulted with the business community. By providing a rebate on tools and equipment that help businesses grow, we ar encouraging investments and helping to reduce the cost of growth for businesses in every sector,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “This provincial sales tax (PST) rebate will make it easier for businesses to make the investments that will allow them to grow or adapt and seize the opportunities of a post-COVID-19 economy.”

The rebate, announced in September 2020 as part of StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan, allows incorporated businesses to recover 100 percent of the PST on most machinery and equipment purchased between Sept. 17, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021.

“Having a 100 percent PST rebate is a good incentive to make the kind of capital investments that will not just support our members, but help the economy respond, recover and prosper,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, vice-president, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “These rebates will support both the short-term need for relief and the long-term goal of economic growth.”

Online applications are open. The first window is open until Sept. 20, 2021, followed by a second window after the eligible rebate period (Oct. 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022). Rebate eligibility is based on the Canada Revenue Agency’s Capital Cost Allowance classes.

The rebate is one of the government-provided investments helping businesses recover and respond to the unprecedented economic impact of the pandemic. Other supports include the Small-to-Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant, an incentive for businesses that hired more employees, grants to launch or upgrade online stores and other tax relief provided in 2020.

Learn More