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Anxious about returning to work during COVID-19? Here is what you need to know.

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

As the province is slowly beginning to lift certain restrictions, more and more businesses are resuming operations and employees returning to work. This resumption of operations is certainly causing some anxiety for employees. This post outlines some key things you should know when returning to your workplace.

Your employer has a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace

Under occupational health and safety legislations, your employer has a duty to protect the health and safety of you and your colleagues. Your employer is obligated to implement preventative measures to ensure you are not exposed to conditions which could be harmful to your health and safety while working.

Right to refuse work

If your employer is providing a safe workplace, you have to go back to work. However, if your workplace poses a clear danger to your health and safety then it may be reasonable to refuse to continue to work. Keep in mind, whether a workplace is unsafe will depend on many factors such as:

• The nature of the workplace;

• The suspected safety risks;

• The individual needs of the employee; and

• What is reasonable in the circumstances.

Request to work from home

Requests to work from home will also need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you unreasonably refuse to return to work you may be subject to discipline. Subject to any human rights and health and safety considerations, your employer has the right to choose which employees can work remotely. Employers cannot, however, be discriminatory in how they choose/determine who can and cannot work remotely.

New COVID-19 related leave

You can take unpaid, job-protected leave related to COVID-19 if you are unable to work for any of the following reasons:

• You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a

medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse;

• You are in quarantine or self-isolation and are acting in accordance with an order of the

provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines

from the BC Centre for Disease Control or guidelines from the Public Health Agency of


• Your employer has directed you not to work due to concern about your exposure to


• You need to provide care to your minor child or a dependent adult who is your child or

former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or

similar facility closure; or

• You are outside of BC and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions.

The COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in BC. During this public health emergency, you can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as you need it, without putting your job at risk. Once it is no longer needed, this leave will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

New illness or injury leave

The Employment Standards Act provides up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for employees covered by the Employment Standards Act who cannot work due to illness or injury.

In order for you to be eligible to receive illness or injury leave, you must have 90 consecutive days of employment with your employer. If requested, you need to provide enough information to satisfy your employer that you are ill or injured and therefore entitled to the leave.

For more information please contact us at or 604.900.8082


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Queenstone Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. We would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.

Although we attempt to keep the information on our site accurate and up-to-date, due to the ever changing nature of the law, as well as, the speed at which new cases are released, we cannot guarantee that the content is fully up to date or remains completely accurate.

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