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Employers & Businesses

Information for businesses and industry on continuing operations during the pandemic.

Last updated: February 24, 2021

The advice below is based on current recommendations and may change. Please check back often for recent updates from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Disease Control.

WorkSafe BC provides guidance for employers for a number of business types.  Check this site for the latest guidance from WorkSafe BC.

Summary of latest orders 

New PHO Order: Gathering and Events (January 8, 2021)

  • Events are not permitted (described in section B)
  • High-intensity exercise is not permitted and low-intensity exercise requirements are listed (described in section I)
  • Requirements for Drive-thru events (section J) and Perimeter Seating Vehicles and Buses (section K)
  • Retail business requirements  (section L) - refer to Retail Stores page for details

Workplace Safety (December 16, 2020)

  • Employers must review their COVID-19 safety plan is consistent with WorkSafe BC guidelines,
  • Daily health checks of employees must be performed, employees must not work if they did not pass or properly perform the daily health check,
  • Employers must encourage workers to work from home if that is possible, and provide supports for this,
  • Employers must prevent employees from congregating at the workplace.
  • Both customers and staff are required to wear a non-medical mask in all indoor public spaces, including any retail settings such as shopping malls, grocery stores and retail stores. See below for more details and the full Ministerial Order, issued on November 24, 2020.
  • Consult the PHO Order on Gatherings and Events to see restrictions on events. Buildings large enough to meet physical distancing requirements between people, such as grocery stores or malls, may allow more than 50 people in at one time as long as it is not for an event or gathering. 
Masking is now a requirement in all public indoor settings 
  • Customers are required to wear a non-medical mask that covers the nose, mouth and chin in all indoor public spaces, including retail, recreation, dining, and other indoor settings. For customers, masking is required at all times except while eating or drinking or seated at a table designated for this purpose, or during personal services for which a mask cannot be worn (e.g., dental services). 
  • An employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan may require workers to wear a mask when interacting directly with customers. However, workplaces may have other control measures in place such as a well-designed plexiglass shield that acts as a barrier between customers and employees. More information about suitable barriers can be found in the WorkSafe document COVID-19 health and safety: Designing effective barriers.
  • Businesses should communicate the mask policy to customers and consider posting signage at entrances to advise customers of the new provincial masking requirements.
  • Businesses should document mask policies in their COVID-19 safety plan and communicate requirements to employees. 
  • A customer can be refused entry if they do not wear a mask. There are exceptions for:
    • children under 12 years of age;
    • people with a physical or cognitive disability or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own;
    • people who are eating or drinking in a designated area at an indoor food premises, 
    • people who are receiving a personal service (if mask removal is required). 
Requirements for food businesses may vary. For more information on these differences, see the Food Businesses page

Learn more about exemptions to the mandatory mask order from the BC's Human Rights Commissioner:

When customers refuse to wear masks in your store it puts workers and other customers at risk.
  • Private businesses have a right to refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask. Ask these customers to shop online or to choose curbside pick-up options.
  • Provide masks at the entrance for those customers who have forgotten their mask.
  • Employers have a duty to accommodate customers and workers who may not be able to wear masks for disability or other medical reasons.  If a worker or customer shares these as reasons why they cannot wear a mask you should accommodate per the information provided by the BC Human Rights Tribunal
  • Staff and operators are not expected to put themselves at risk if a visitor becomes belligerent or abusive. Operators and employees are recommended to contact enforcement officers (e.g., mall security or the police) to remove the visitor as outlined in the Ministerial Order.

Operators must develop and implement a COVID-19 contingency plan when store capacity is temporarily exceeded during an emergency, e.g. during a lightning storm or wildfire. When sudden inclement weather or an emergency situation affects the safety of patrons queued up outside the store, premises may allow patrons inside. The store should ensure that extra face masks and hand hygiene stations are available to address the temporary reduction in physical distancing during this period.


Workplaces must ensure all customers and workers maintain a safe physical distance and wear a mask when appropriate to do so. Physical distancing is established by providing a two metre distance between people or by providing a barrier that stops transmission of respiratory droplets from one person to another. Workplaces must be especially vigilant in shared settings like break rooms and kitchens. Active inspections will increase. Some businesses should support working from home, if possible.

Gyms and recreation facilities in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health must stop indoor group activities until new plans are in place and approved by a medical health officer. Party busses, limos and “perimeter seating” vehicles are also ordered to stop operations.

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Tips to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while traveling

  • Complete a COVID-19 symptom check before carpooling. Do not travel if you have:
    • COVID-19 symptoms
    • Travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days
    • Been told to self-isolate by public health
  • Spread out as much as possible. If there are two people, the driver should be alone in the front.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Travel with the same people each time.
  • Keep your trips as short as possible
  • Open windows in the vehicle to allow air in
  • Set the vehicles ventilation to bring in fresh outside air. Do not recirculate the air.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in the car.
  • Clean high contact areas (such as seat belts and door handles) every time you leave the vehicle.
  • If vehicles are shared on the job, clean between each shift.
  • Clean your hands when you get in and when you leave.
At work: If you are carpooling with another employee at your worksite, tell your employer. Your employer may use this information when making their COVID-19 Safety Plan.

What workers should know:

  • You are NOT expected to disclose the results of your COVID-19 test or any other medical test to your employer.
  • You must not go to work if you are ill.  If you feel ill:



  • When you are asked to self-isolate or quarantine by public health
    • You must stay home for the full period even if you have a negative COVID-19 test. This can be 14 days or longer if you are a close contact. Follow self-isolation guidance.
  • If you feel ill and then get a COVID-19 test and your test is
    • Negative: do not go back to work until you feel well. Continue self-isolation
    • Positive: do not go back to work for at least 10 days AND until you feel well and follow self-isolation  guidance.  

What employers should know:

  • Do not let employees come to work sick. Part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan is to implement a daily worker health check. This should be documented and available for inspectors' review.
  • You do not have the right to ask workers for a copy of their test result (e.g., text message result or other statement).
  • You should not ask workers for a doctor's note clearing them to work.

You will be contacted by public health if there is a reason to investigate a COVID-19 case or cluster in your premises. Your local public health department will identify anyone who may have been in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19. They may also visit your premise to offer specific advice. Public health may not contact you if the exposure is low risk for you, your visitors, or patrons. 

Tools and strategies for safer operations during the pandemic

This resource describes the key principles for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the role of public health authorities, and commonly available tools and strategies to support the public health response. It is intended to guide the development of plans for operating as safely and normally as possible during the pandemic.

Returning to safe operations

  • General and industry-specific guidance on protecting the health and safety of employees at work during COVID-19 and a safety plan template

Supports for businesses

Essential services

Industry-specific guidance and information

Posters and reference materials

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