Provincial Health Officer Imposes New COVID-19 Orders for Employers and Individuals in British Columbia

On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer issued new orders affecting individuals and businesses in British Columbia.  The orders, which we summarize below, are in effect from November 19, 2020 to December 7 at 12:00 p.m.

Workplace Mask Requirements

Masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces.  This includes all retail stores. People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. 

  • Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers
  • A customer can be refused entry or service if they do not wear a mask

Masks are also required in all workplaces, in respect to shared work areas and areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained. This includes hallways, meeting rooms with more than four people, break rooms, and other shared space.

Workplace Safety

  • At all businesses and worksites, daily in-person screening of all onsite workers must occur. This involves screening staff for symptoms associated with COVID-19.
  • Employers must also ensure physical distancing and the wearing of masks (when physical distancing is not possible) is taking place, particularly in common areas of small offices.
  • For office employers, the Provincial Health Officer has requested that every effort be made to provide work from home arrangements, until at least the new year.
  • The following orders have been issued for specific industries:
    • Party-buses and limousines have been ordered to stop operating immediately.
    • Restaurants and bars may continue to operate as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place.  Personal and home based services such as cleaning, health care, house repair and tutoring, can continue to occur.

Indoor Group Physical Activities

Businesses, recreation centres or other organizations that organize or operate high risk indoor group physical activities must suspend the following activities:

  • Spin classes
  • Hot yoga
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT)

Guidance on other physical activities done with a group indoors will need to follow updated guidance that is being developed. These activities can stay open while updated guidance is being developed. 

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. 

Increased Enforcement

  • BC businesses, particularly in the retail, restaurant, and bar industries should expect increased inspections from WorkSafeBC to verify compliance with COVID-19 Safety Plans and protocols. The consequences of non-compliance could include significant fines, and/or a closure order.


While not outright banned, non-essential travel inside and outside British Columbia and between regions of the province should be limited to essential travel only.

No formal orders have been released yet, but the government has provided a summary of the orders on their website, here.

If you have any questions about this matter, other COVID-19 related issues, or would like any other workplace law assistance, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.

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