B.C. Re-Introduces the Requirement for Employers to Have a COVID-19 Safety Plans: Is Your Workplace Compliant?

On January 7, 2022, BC’s Provincial Health Officer once again directed all BC employers to implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan. This is part of the province’s response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the Omicron variant.

The legal requirement to a COVID-19 Safety Plan is not new to employers. Employers were required to put such a plan in place in May 2020. The requirement was lifted on July 1, 2021 in favour of a more general Communicable Disease Prevention Plan. The re-introduction of the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan does not permanently absolve an employer from the requirement to have a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan, but for now, WorkSafeBC has advised that its compliance and enforcement activities will focus on the renewed requirement for a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

A Communicable Disease Prevention Plan outlines measures that reduce the risk of communicable diseases generally in the workplace. For more information, see our previous blog post. By contrast, a COVID-19 Safety Plan deals specifically with the risk from COVID-19 to your workplace. As was the case with COVID-19 Safety Plans, the oversight and enforcement of Communicable Disease Prevention Plans rests with WorkSafeBC. However, while the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan varies with the enforceability of the Public Health Order requiring them, the legal requirement to have a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan finds root in WorkSafeBC’s interpretation of section 21 of the Workers Compensation Act, and thus is likely to remain even post-pandemic.

In re-introducing their COVID-19 Safety Plan, employers should pay special attention to provisions around self-isolation and testing. Public Health’s guidance on testing and self-monitoring – particularly for fully vaccinated individuals experiencing minor symptoms - has changed. Requiring a worker to obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to return to work may no longer be reasonable or realistic given the changing approach to testing. Similarly, requiring a vaccinated worker to remain home from work for 10 days following the onset of symptoms may go beyond what Public Health requires. Employers should review their COVID-19 Safety Plans to ensure they remain reasonable vis-à-vis Public Health’s changed approach to testing and self-isolation.

For more information about the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan or a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan or for assistance in drafting yours, please reach out to a member of our Occupational Health and Safety Group or our Labour, Employment & Human Rights Groups.


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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Law Blog provides updates on the most recent legal developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

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