B.C.’s Latest COVID-19 Restrictions: What Employers Should Know

Authors: Graham Christie, Negina Khalil

This blog was originally published on November 20, 2020. 

On November 19, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) announced an order for all individuals, places of work and businesses in B.C. to significantly reduce their level of social interactions and travel. The order is in effect from November 19, 2020 at midnight to January 8, 2021 at midnight. 

Although a travel advisory is in place at this time for all non-essential travel, regular travel to work within one’s region is considered to be essential travel. For example, if an employee lives in Vancouver and works in Surrey he/she can continue to commute to work.

Employers must review and redouble efforts on their COVID-19 Safety Plan, remind employees to monitor themselves daily and to always stay home if they have symptoms. Employers must also make every effort to provide work from home options.

The following are additional directions that employers must follow:

  • Workplaces must ensure that all workers and customers maintain appropriate physical distancing and wear masks when physical distancing is not possible
  • Extra care should be taken in small office spaces, break rooms and kitchens
  • Review the WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Safety Plan documentation
  • A daily screening should already be included in every business’s existing COVID-19 Safety Plan (download the WorkSafeBC COVID-19 symptom check poster)
  • Masks are required in all workplaces for shared work areas and areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, which includes: elevators, kitchens, customer counters, break rooms, hallways and meeting rooms with more than four people.

Social gatherings and events

Social gatherings of any size with anyone other than those in one’s household or core bubble are not permitted.

All events and community-based gatherings, such as galas, musical or theatre performances, seasonal activities and silent auctions are also suspended. The Public Health Order – Gatherings and Events will largely impact the following types of businesses:

  • Owners and operators of banquet halls
  • Owners and operators of vacation accommodation
  • Owners and occupants of private residences and guests
  • Owners and operators of places, including premises subject to the Food and Liquor Serving Premises order
  • Persons who organize events
  • Persons who own or operate perimeter seating vehicles and perimeter seating buses

Restrictions by sector

Movie theatres: can continue to operate as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. These plans include measure like physical distancing, small numbers of seats, cleaning protocols and mask wearing. Updated November 24, 2020: Movie viewings in cinemas have been suspended.

Personal and home-based services: the order does not restrict services provided in the home. The following services can continue to operate:

  • Health-care services
  • Hair salons and nail salons
  • Cleaning services
  • House repair
  • Tutoring and music lessons
  • Working with people with disabilities

Rental and home sale viewings: the order does not restrict rental and home sale viewings. People hosting viewings should use layers of protection, like masks and support virtual viewing options as much as possible.

Party buses and limousines: cannot operate in any region. Resuming operations is at the discretion of the PHO. Fines of $2,000 can be applied to people who operate a party bus or limousine. Fines of $200 can be applied to people who attend a party on a party bus or limousine.

Restaurants and bars: the order does not impact restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars can continue to operate as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place. WorkSafeBC will be conducting inspections to verify that COVID-19 Safety Plans remain effective. Restaurants that are non-compliant with plan requirements may face orders and fines, and possible referral to public health, which may result in a closure order.

Indoor group physical activities: businesses, recreation centres or other organizations that organize or operate indoor group physical activities must suspend spin classes, hot yoga and high intensity interval training (“HIIT”). Other physical activities done in a group indoors must follow updated guidance once it is developed. Update November 23, 2020: dance studios, martial arts and cheerleading are now temporarily suspended, pending further guidance.

Gyms and recreation facilities: gyms and recreation facilities that offer individual workouts and personal training sessions can remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that is strictly followed.

Mask requirements

Masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces.

Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers. Customers can be refused entry or service if they do not wear a mask. The mask requirements apply to the following settings:

Malls, shopping centres  Grocery stores Coffee shops Common areas in hotels
Libraries Clothing stores Liquor stores Drug stores
Community centres Recreation centres City halls Restaurants and bars when not seated at a table


On November 24, 2020, a mask enforcement order was introduced under the Emergency Program Act, requiring masks in public indoor settings for people over the age of 12. Between August 21 and December 4, 2020, 194 violation tickets were issued, including:

  • 36 $2,300 tickets to owners or organizers contravening the PHO’s order on gatherings and events;
  • 16 $2,300 violation tickets for contravention of the PHO’s Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order; and
  • 142 $230 tickets issued to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.

In addition to compliance activities by WorkSafe, an Environmental Health Officers team will focus on workplaces in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions to ensure COVID-19 Safety Plan compliance and to enable rapid response and action.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.