It has now been nearly a year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. We have addressed many changes and questions that COVID-19 brought up for business owners and employees alike.
See our past blogs for businesses during COVID-19:
- Dealing with commercial lease issues during COVID-19
- What do B.C.’s recent changes to the Employment Standards Act mean for your small business?
- 3 things you should know when modifying employee contracts during or after COVID-19
By now, you’re probably aware of the news regarding the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. For BC, Dr. Bonnie Henry has anticipated that the vaccine will be widely available later in 2021 to all residents who want it.
However, Dr. Henry has prioritized certain workers and residents to receive the vaccine.
First priority groups are as follows:
- Long-term care and assisted living residents and staff
- Health care facility staff for COVID-19 patients in ICU, COVID-19 wards and emergency departments
- Indigenous people living in remote and rural communities
- High-risk people living in group settings like shelters
- People over the age of 80
In spring 2021, as the vaccine becomes available, the second phase of vaccinations will begin for the second priority groups.
Second priority groups are as follows:
- Older people under age 80 in descending five-year-age groups, with a focus on the oldest people first
- Key frontline workers including:
- All other healthcare workers
- Fire and first responders
- People working in grocery stores
- People working in K-12 education settings and child care providers
- People working in transportation
- People working in manufacturing and production facilities
As the vaccine is rolled out to those who are eligible for it, we expect employees to ask the question:
Can my employer force me to wear a mask at work, even if I’ve been vaccinated?
In short, the answer is: yes. In order to abide by mandatory government orders, employers can require their staff to wear masks or face coverings.
Employers are required by law to ensure the health and safety of their staff and work environment and are required to implement safety measures to prevent potential COVID-19 exposures. Information on creating a safe work environment can be located on the WorkSafeBC website. If your staff are unable to stay apart (such as staying 2 metres apart or using glass barriers), then they are required to wear a mask when in close proximity to each other.
In BC, a public health order issued in November 2020 made masks mandatory to the public in all indoor settings. A few exceptions are:
- Children under the age of 12
- Persons unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition
- Temporary exemption for eating and drinking in designated locations
The government of BC implemented a penalty of $230 to those who are found not to be wearing a mask.
As access to the vaccine becomes more available these safety measures and mandatory orders are unlikely to change in the short to medium term. This is because the vaccine appears to prevent people from getting sick enough that they develop symptoms, and so ill that they end up in the hospital. However, it’s possible you could get the vaccine and still be an asymptomatic carrier and therefore transmit to others. Source: Science News