Sarah Bruce
Public Relations / Member Engagement
Email: sarahbruce@ara.bc.ca
Phone: 604-432-7987

COVID-19 FAQs

While we all work through the COVID-19 health crisis, we are working to compile a list of frequently asked questions our advisors are receiving from members. If you have a question in need of answering, please email your division’s advisor or communication@ara.bc.ca.

Questions the ARA is asking ICBC and government on behalf of members

  • What is ICBC doing to help shops during this time? Answered: ICBC and the ARA are in weekly meetings to discuss ways to keep industry going. Topics include: vehicle sanitization, vendor payment cycle, federal/provincial government funding programs, and dealerships requiring COD on parts. One of the resolutions has been the 0.5 hour $37.50 rate for pre- and post-vehicles sanitization.
  • Why isn’t government/ICBC deferring deductibles to stimulate business? Answered: ICBC is investigating the potential however it raises many complexities on how to administer such a program. Still under investigation.
  • What is the ARA doing to help shops with rate increases from ICBC? Answered: The benchmark review promised by ICBC CEO Nicolas Jiminez has been put on hold in agreement with industry. The COVID-19 health crisis has required industry and ICBC to reevaluate priorities to ensure that everyone stays safe while business continues. Thus, the ARA and ICBC are not yet in discussion about the benchmark review that will be used for establishing rates but rather about how to keep business moving forward.
  • What is the ARA doing about COD demands from parts suppliers? Answered: The ARA has had direct contact with Auto Canada President Michael Rawluk who clarified that there is no hard written policy around COD. It was up to the dealers to use proper diligence when looking at new clients or where red flags appear.  For other dealer groups that choose to maintain their COD requirements the ARA has been able to promote the alternate services of Uniparts OEM and Advantage Parts Solutions, who act as a single point of contact for parts purchase and pricing. The ARA was also able to have VanFax rescind their COD requirements when they better understood the current operating environment in BC as compared with Eastern Canada.
  • Should the province go into further stages of lockdown, will the automotive service sector be declared an essential service and remain open? Answered: March 26, 2020 – B.C. Government includes towing services and vehicle repiar/maintenance as essential services.
  • Will industry be able to bill for disinfecting services performed on customer vehicles? Answered: We’ve been in discussions with both ICBC and a supplier regarding the vehicle sanitizing process. A new disinfecting process will soon be released that will allow you to “mist or fog” the interior of a vehicle in a matter of minutes, killing the virus almost on contact. While the supplier finalizes details, we are pleased to announce that a special ARA discount will be offered to members. We’ve also had a positive discussion with ICBC around the need to consider the time involved to disinfect vehicles and expect a result soon.
  • Is ICBC capable of deferring customer deductible payments to help encourage those customers who are in financially challenging times continue to receive their claim repairs? Answer at this point: ICBC was already investigating this potential, there is no ETA at this time as a solution is very complex.
  • The ARA has asked that ICBC assist industry with their cash flow needs by implementing weekly payment cycles vs every two weeks. Answer at this point: ICBC has taken this under consideration and will investigate however they do have concerns with stretching their own capabilities during these difficult times.
  • Some customers are unwilling to sign the estimate release due to COVID19 concerns, is ICBC open to other options such as using an email release?  Answer at this point: ICBC will investigate this and other potential options.
  • As many of the schools, colleges, and universities are closing, do we foresee the same closures for I-Car courses? Answered: I-CAR Canada has cancelled all live classes now including welding. This is a big issue for shops that are just about to finish their training to achieve individual platinum to have Gold Class status. I-Car is now offering extensions, but the shops or enrolled technicians are asked to call into I-CAR (1-800-808-2920) to receive the extension. I-CAR will look at this case by case.
  • As this pandemic could last months, will ICBC recognize that many shops will experience delays in getting their technicians trained and ready for the new programs ahead?
  • Will the government potentially close down crown corporations such as ICBC? Answered: Not at this time.
  • Should claim centres close, is there an expectation that operations can or will continue as far as shops being able to process claims? Answered: ICBC is working to keep operations up and running as usual.
  • Is ICBC able to keep operations going with staff working from home?  i.e. Dial a Claim, Claims Repair Program? Answered: ICBC is continuing to take on new claims.
  • Will ICBC pay a rate for pre- and post-vehicle sanitization for vehicles in for servicing and courtest cars loaned to customers? Answered: Yes, ICBC will pay 0.5 hours $37.50.

General FAQs

Question: What steps can I take to protect my unoccupied property during COVID-19?

Answer: During these unprecedented times, it has become necessary for businesses and organizations to shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and properties may be unoccupied. In this bulletin, Insurance Company AON provides some general risk protection guidelines to assist real estate owners and property managers to manage these situations and reduce the risk of loss at their premises.

Question: What Financial support is available for small/medium-sized businesses who need to shut down or limit operations during COVID-19?

Answer: The ARA has compiled links to the financial resources available:

Question: What does are the details of the Canadian Government’s wage subsidy announcement?

Answer: To prepare to rehire and retain essential talent, the Canadian government launched its biggest economic recovery program in Canadian history. The federal government has just released further details of the 75 percent wage subsidy program. Program details are as follows:

  • If your revenue has decreased by 30 percent from this time last year you will qualify. To determine the decline in revenue Canada Revenue will compare your earnings from 2019 with 2020. They will compare your revenues for March, April, and May with your current revenues to determine eligibility.
  • Applications can be made online through a portal to be made available soon on the CRA website. Similar to the CERB employers will be required to re-apply every month.
  • Money will be distributed to businesses within six weeks after applying.
  • Number of employees not a factor in decision.
  • Applies to private, non-profit, or charities.
  • All companies qualify no matter the number of employees they hire.
  • Wage subsidy will cover 75 percent of your salary for the first $58.000 or $847.00 per week. Employers are expected to cover the remaining 25 percent of an employee’s wages as best they can.
  • Backdated to March 16th.
  • Any fraudulent activity will be dealt with severe consequences.

Question: What is COVID-19/Corona Virus?

Answer: The World Health Organization has given the name of SARS-CoV-2 to the virus “Coronavirus” also known as COVID-19 Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is the latest communicable disease outbreak with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The virus can be transmitted by air or touch and may enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth passages. It can be transmitted through close contact with another person who has already been infected.COVID-19 can lay in incubation and then appear anywhere from two to 14 days in a person. This means that some people may carry the virus but not display any symptoms for several days. Some people may even be asymptomatic where they carry the virus but have no visible symptoms, however, they are still contagious.

Question: What is the difference between self-monitoring and self-isolation?

Answer: Self-monitoring means, you monitor yourself for 14 days for symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. Whereas self-isolation means you monitor yourself for the same time while staying at home and having no contact with anyone else

Question: Why do I need to practice social distancing?

Answer: Social distancing has proven to be the most effective way to slow down the spread of illness during an outbreak. Social distancing means minimizing close contact with others while conducting your daily routine. This includes thing avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings as well as avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes. The health authority recommends keeping a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others.

Question: When should I go to the hospital?

Answer: Fever, shortness of breath, and a cough are strong indicators of the virus. However, if you display any of the emergency symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breathe, persistent pain, or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse or bluish lips/face you should seek medical attention right away.

Question: What are the preventive measures to take in order to prevent infection or spread of the virus?

Answer: Practising proper hygiene is the best way to prevent infection and the spread of the virus. Washing your hands and avoiding touching your face is one of the number one things you can do. Using any type of hand soap will work and doesn’t necessarily need to be antibacterial as COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria. If you do not have access to hand soap, hand sanitizer is another option; however for it to be effective, it needs to be alcohol-based and contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

When coughing or sneezing, cough into the bend of your arm or tissue. Dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined wastebasket and wash your hands afterwards. Using cleaners to disinfect everyday used items such as electronics, TV remotes, and door handles can also help limit the transfer of the virus.

FAQs for Government Response Programs due to COVID-19

Question: How do I qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

Answer: You have to live in Canada, be at least 15 years of age, and no longer working because of COVID-19 or eligible for EI Regular or sickness benefits. You cannot have voluntarily quit and must have had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019, or in the last 12 months prior to the date of application.

Question: How much will I receive if I qualify for this program?

Answer: $2000 a month for up to four months.

Question: Can I still be working and receive CERB?

Answer: Yes, you can earn up to $1000 a month while receiving CERB.

Question: Who is eligible for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy?

Answer: Individuals and taxable corporations

Question: What is the aim of this program?

Answer: To help businesses retain their workforce on payroll rather than lay them off.

Question: If I am an employer can I claim for remuneration paid to employee while on CERB?

Answer: No.

Question: How long is this program available?

Answer: This program is available for a 12 week period, from March 15th to June 6, 2020.

Question: How does my business qualify for this program?

Answer: You must have suffered a drop in gross revenue of at least 15 percent in March 2020, 30 percent in April 2020, and/or 30 percent in May of 2020, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 or the monthly average of revenue for January and February 2020.

Question: What is the goal of the Canada Emergency Business Account?

Answer: To provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small business and not-for-profits.

Question: How does my Business Qualify?

Answer: You must demonstrate you paid between $20,000 to $1.5 million in payroll in 2019.

Question: What are the benefits of this program?

Answer: If a company is able to pay the loan off by December 31, 2022, a quarter of the loan will be forgiven.

Group Benefit FAQs

Question: What happens to employee benefits during a layoff?

Answer: During a temporary layoff, benefits can be continued until the end of the third month following the month of the layoff, except disability benefits. This would be on a premium-paying basis, meaning that the ARA would still bill the company each month, and it would be up to the employer to collect premiums, if necessary, from the employee. If this is a permanent lay-off, benefits can be converted by the employee to a private plan. Learn more here.

Question: How can I continue to offer benefits to my employees in the event of a layoff?

Answer: SunLife strongly encourages sponsors to maintain coverage for their employees for three months or the period highlighted in the Continuation of coverage clause. Given the circumstances, SunLife will allow the following options:

  • Continue coverage for all benefits
  • Continue coverage for all benefits, except disability
  • Terminate all coverage (not recommended)

Sponsors must apply the decision equally to all employees within the same class. Sponsors should also understand the potential risk of terminating coverage, including:

  • No Life coverage
  • No Disability Coverage
  • Disability pre-existing condition would restart when the member is back at work
  • Members may stockpile their medication prior to termination
  • People currently out of country

If disability coverage continues, and a plan member becomes ill during the lay-off or leave, the plan member is eligible for disability benefits:

  • At the end of the elimination period or
  • On the date they were scheduled to return to work, if this is a later date.

If coverage is maintained, employers are responsible to collect employee contributions.  They can choose to collect later (when member is back to work) and this will not affect taxability.

Question: What happens if I am quarantined, am I going to be able to collect disability benefits?

Answer: If you have tested positive and have short term disability, then you may be eligible to claim for short term disability benefits, depending on your elimination period. Some plans may cover you but you may have to fill out a specific form. The employer and member will both need to fill out respective forms.

For more information, please refer to Sunlife’s COVID-19 form

Question: What if I don’t have disability benefits and I am quarantined?

Answer: E.I. may cover you if you are not ill but cannot perform your work from home during self-isolation. If you have tested positive for CIVID-19, you may be able to qualify for medical E.I. if you did not have disability benefits prior. For more information please visit the government website: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness/apply.html

If you have further questions, please contact the ARA group benefits department and someone will be able to help you. Also, check back often to the ARA COVID-19 webpage for daily updates.

Collision FAQs

While we all work through the COVID-19 health crisis, we are working to compile a list of frequently asked questions our advisors are receiving from members. If you have a question in need of answering, please email your division’s advisor or communication@ara.bc.ca.

Question: What is everyone else doing? Are they staying open or are they closing?

Answer: Approximately three-quarters of industry is operating with reduced staffing or reduced hours. Some have sufficient backlog provided staff is comfortable working. The biggest challenge is ensuring everyone stays safe and practices proper hygiene and social distancing. For more information see the ARA’s COVI-19 site as updates are happening daily.

Question: It’s mainly the staff who wants my business to close? How should I deal with this?

Answer: If employers are taking the necessary steps to mitigate the risk to employees, then employees can continue to work. Try asking these four questions to determine if they can continue working:

  • Have you travelled within the last two weeks?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • Do you have a cough?
  • Do you consider/identify yourself as part of a vulnerable group as identified by the Canadian government?

Employers should have open communication with staff during this time to identify who is able/willing to work and who is unable to due excruciating circumstances (those taking care of loved ones who could easily get sick). It is also important that employers remember this is a difficult time for all and good employees are hard to find, so the support you provide now will help you retain loyal employees.

Question: When are we going to hear if we’re going to be considered an essential service?

Answer: As of March 26, thanks in part to a position presented by the ARA to the provincial government, vehicle repair and towing services were deemed essential services during COVID-19:

“Employees who repair, maintain and overhaul vehicles, aircraft and parts, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers, as well as vehicle rentals and leasing … towing services and other vehicle repair/maintenance operations.”

For more information about essential services, go to the B.C. Government’s List of COVID-19 Essential Services.

If you have further questions, please contact David Ribeiro. Also, check back often to the ARA COVID-19 webpage for daily updates.

Towing and Recycling FAQs

Towing and Recovery:

How has your business model changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? Specifically, how your business practices have changed with regards to:

Question: How can customers access belongings out of their vehicles?

Answer: Consider making appointments for customers who need to access belongings out of their vehicles or reducing hours of operations. Only allow access to vehicles where necessary and introduce protocols to ensure safety. In order to have as minimal contact with customers as possible, follow social distancing measures and preventive measures to mitigate the spread of germs. For instance, allow only one person in the office at a time and thoroughly clean after each customer leaves. Consider rearranging the way payments are taken such as etransfer, visa, or debit. Consider taking things such as payments on the phone and sending invoicing through email instead. For the latest in occupational health and safety news and information please visit https://ohs.ara.bc.ca.

Question: How can operators tow vehicles to and from facility using best practices to avoid contact with customers or the vehicle?

Answer: Do not allow anyone in the trucks other than your operators. Advise customers of this prior to attending the call. If this causes stress for the customer and abuse to the driver, offer to call them a cab if necessary or let them know they need to arrange transportation themselves, this will allow for minimal interaction and advise operators to maintain social distancing of two meters to avoid the spread of germs.

Make sure all trucks are equipped with hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and spray nine. Make sure drivers use appropriate materials such as nitrile gloves while loading and unloading customer cars. If they need to enter a vehicle, they may do so but use a Lysol wipe or sanitized paper towel to release the emergency break or touch any component in the vehicle. Beyond that, any interaction whether that be paperwork, invoices, keys, or payments should require the employee wearing gloves at all times. Notify operators to not come to work if they are sick, if they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, or if they reside with someone who has returned from travel. They need to notify their manager and self-isolate for 14 days upon returning from travel. For the latest in occupational health and safety news and information please visit: https://ohs.ara.bc.ca.

Question: How can you administer paperwork and/or dispatch (e.g. reduce hours, limit service, etc.)?

Answer: At this time, office hours for the public may be reduced due to the significant reduction of impounds. Consider reducing hours to a four day or alternating workweek for office staff. If any staff are working in the office environment, make sure preventative measures have been taken (e.g. desks and other office supplies have been disinfected) and employees have been provided with necessary materials (e.g. sanitizer). If at all possible, have dispatchers work from home in order to avoid unnecessary interactions. If this cannot be done, apply administrative controls such as plexiglass at the front counter to guard both employees and customers or implement social distancing protocols (e.g. two meters space between employees and employees and customers). Consider going with full electronic invoicing, so the only receipt the customer might get is the credit card slip if that’s how they pay.  As well as encourage e-transfer for payments and start taking credit cards on the phone if necessary to avoid contact with customers. Use gloves when handling cash. For the latest occupational health and safety news and information please visit https://ohs.ara.bc.ca.

As you can appreciate, things have been quite busy with all of the COVID-related impacts to program operations and RoadSafetyBC is continuing to work through these issues on a daily basis. They have been faced with a number of closures of appointed agents and other service providers/stakeholders, and this is a trend that is expected to continue for the time being.

Below please find some answers some of the common questions and RoadSafetyBC’s responses:

Question: Due to likely reductions in staff and layoffs will there be any flexibility for ILOs in meeting deadlines for filing declarations or any other deadlines? If so, how much flexibility can be awarded to ILOs who are having difficulty meeting these deadlines?

Answer: As you know, a Request for Disposal is required to be submitted within 30 days of the expiry of the impoundment; however, if the request is submitted beyond 30 days, the Superintendent can ask for an explanation for the delay. ILOs should use this procedure during the pandemic. The Superintendent intends to be as flexible as possible during this time regarding the reason for the delay.

The ILO Procedures also require an ILO to dispose of a vehicle within 30 days of the expiry of the impoundment for a Request for a Refuse to Issue to be approved. We are currently conducting further policy analysis regarding the 30 day time period and whether or not it can be extended more universally. If this policy is able to be changed, we will notify your group immediately.

Question: Is it possible for ILOs to send paperwork directly to RoadSafetyBC for processing? If so, can an ILO scan and email paperwork directly to RSBC?

Answer: RoadSafetyBC is continually working with ICBC and other stakeholders to create workarounds for those who are unable to attend a DLO or an Appointed Agent in person or for those areas where some Appointed Agents have been forced to close due to COVID-19. At this point, we are not aware of any Service BC locations being closed. There are a number of processes that require front-counter service, including the swearing of statutory declarations, and the surrendering of license plates. We are in the process of developing some workarounds and hope to have revised processes to share with you shortly.

Question: If an RO cannot obtain a release from ICBC how can an ILO release their vehicle? Also, if an RO has been ordered to isolate, how can they claim their vehicle?

Answer: If an RO is unable to attend the ILO to obtain their vehicle, they may authorize someone to do so in their stead. While this process is currently done at the ICBC front counter, ROs who are unable to attend a DLO should be directed to contact RoadSafetyBC. We are currently handling these scenarios on a case-by-case basis to ensure vehicles are able to be released appropriately.

Question: If in the event that an RO cannot claim their vehicle due to COVID-19 how will the added days of storage be dealt with? Will RoadSafetyBC consider financial compensation for ILOs who must hold a vehicle for longer than necessary?

Answer: The Superintendent is doing everything they can to ensure that ROs are able to have their vehicles released upon the expiry of their impoundment period. As in the previous response, a Registered Owner may designate a third party individual through the “Owners Authorization” form to pick up the vehicle on their behalf. That individual must attend the ILO with the “Owners Authorization” for the vehicle to be released by the ILO. The Superintendent does not have the authority to provide extra compensation to cover additional impoundment related costs should an RO be unable to pick up their vehicle or authorize someone to do so on their behalf. We are, however, researching COVID-19 related programs and resources that may be able to assist small businesses to cover costs associated with COVID-19. We will continue this research and inform you of any findings.

We thank you for your patience during this time.  We will continue our work to ensure that the ILO processes are able to be completed and are as straightforward and efficient as possible during this challenging time.  We appreciate the work of the ARA and look forward to our continued partnership as we find solutions during this difficult time.

Recyclers:

Question: With service disruptions in shipping, staff lay-offs, etc., what impact will have this on cycle time and how will ICBC account for this (e.g. extend cycle time and/or delivery times)?

Answer: For the latest announcements on ICBC operational changes please visit https://www.icbc.com/partners/material-damage/Pages/default.aspx

If you have further questions, please contact Ken Hendricks. Also, check back often to the ARA COVID-19 webpage for daily updates.

Temporary Layoff FAQ

**The content herein does not constitute legal advice every situation is unique and can affect the legal analysis. It is important to consult legal counsel.

What constitutes a temporary Layoff in B.C.?

In B.C., a temporary layoff is when an employee earns less than 50 percent of their weekly wage or regular rate (averaged over the previous eight weeks).

How long is the temporary layoff in B.C.?

It can constitute a duration of 16 weeks or less in any period of 20 consecutive weeks.

Is there a limitation on an employer’s ability to implement a temporary layoff?

Yes, in order for an employer to rely on the B.C. employment standards temporary lay off provisions, they need to have an explicit provision in an employment agreement or policy, which permits them to utilize the temporary layoff provisions in B.C. Employment Standards Legislation.

What if the employer does not have an employment agreement/policy in place?

If there is an absence of an employment agreement, the temporary layoff may be treated as a constructive dismissal by the employee.

What is a Constructive Dismal?

When an employer makes a one-sided major change to a fundamental term of employment without the employees consent.

Are Employers required to provide written notice of layoff?

No, they are not obligated to provide advance notice of the layoff, despite any contractual/policy or collective agreement provisions in place

If an employer is non-unionized, do they still have to layoff employees using seniority?

No, the employer is not obligated to do so. They can select which positions are vital to the operation of the business and which are not, provided they are not using any criteria, which is discrimination under the Human Rights Code.

Are employers required to pay employees during a temporary layoff?

No, they are not required to do so, despite any contractual/policy or collective agreement provisions in place.

Is the employer required to payout vacation pay when a temporary layoff begins?

No, they are not required to do so, despite any contractual/policy or collective agreement provisions in place.

Is the employer required to maintain benefit enrolment during a temporary layoff?

No, they are not required to do so, despite any contractual/policy or collective agreement provisions in place, as states under the employment standards legislation. However, it is strongly encouraged that employers continue their benefits in order to continue maintaining an employment relationship as it has value when responding to any claim of constructive dismissal against them.

If you have further questions, please contact Dejla Sabanac. Also, check back often to the ARA COVID-19 webpage for daily updates.