Info on Covid-19, click for more information

COVID-19 FAQ

Your collective agreement rights, financial issues & family concerns:

BCGEU members work under 550 different collective agreements, so the answers to these questions can vary greatly. Your first step is to consult your collective agreement by logging in to the BCGEU Member Portal. If, after reading it, you still have questions, please contact your shop steward or local chair.

If you work in the B.C. public service or in the healthcare field, you can find specific information here:
There are many financial programs available to support workers and their families in B.C. and Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Income replacement

Currently there are three income replacement benefits available directly from the Canadian government to workers whose income has been affected by COVID-19. These benefits are: Use our COVID-19 Income Replacement Benefits guide to determine which of these income replacement benefits you are eligible for and how to apply for them.

2. Income supplement

  • For post-secondary students:
    • The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides $1,250 per four-week period to post-secondary students, and recent post-secondary and high school graduates, who are unable to find work due to COVID-19 and do not qualify for the CERB or EI.
    • B.C. post-secondary students at public institutions who are not already able to study remotely can access non-repayable emergency assistance for living expenses, food, travel, portable computers and other supports via their school's financial aid office. Each post-secondary institution will determine the specific amount.
  • The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers provides a one-time additional tax-free payment of $1,000 to those on EI or CERB. Check here for eligibility criteria and application instructions. You can apply online starting May 1.

  • The existing Income Assistance program continues to be available for those in need with no other resources. Apply online, by phone (1-866-866-0800) or, if you are not ill, visit your local office. As of April 2, new emergency supports are available for those on Income Assistance.

  • For people with disabilities: The existing Disability Assistance program continues to be available, as well as additional supports. Apply online, by phone (1-866-866-0800) or, if you are not ill, visit your local office. People on Disability who receive a bus pass or Compass Card will get $52 on their monthly cheques until fares are reinstated.

  • For seniors: Eligible seniors are automatically enrolled in existing programs, but applications can also be submitted online for the following programs:
  • For Indigenous people: The B.C. government is providing additional funding to supplement the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund. Indigenous students can contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on their campus, which will help with the application process to receive the financial assistance.
3. Assistance with other expenses

Mortgages & Rent
  • Many mortgage lending agencies, including the CMHC, now have tools available for mortgage deferral and other emergency options. Check with your lender to see what might be available for you at this time.
  • BC Housing has temporarily suspended evictions of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing due to non-payment of rent.
Gas & Electricity
  • BC Hydro is offering a COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program (option to defer bill payments or arrange flexible payment plans with no penalty) and their Customer Crisis Fund (up to $600 in grants to help pay bills) to assist customers impacted financially by COVID-19. As of April 1, BC Hydro is reducing its rates by 1% and offering new, targeted bill relief to provide immediate help to those most in need, including a credit for residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19.
  • FortisBC is waiving late payment fees, suspending disconnections, and offering flexible payments options during the pandemic. Find more details, conditions and FAQs from FortisBC here.
Telecommunications
  • Telus is waiving various overage and roaming charges, offering flexible payment options and free channel previews and educational opportunities. Find more details, conditions and FAQs from Telus here.
  • Shaw has opened up their Shaw Go WiFi network to everyone, Shaw customer or not. For its customers, Shaw has removed data caps on its internet plans and is offering a number of channels for free during the pandemic. More details from Shaw can be found here.
Insurance
  • ICBC if offering a monthly payment deferral for up to 90 days with no penalty. Call 1-800-665-6442 or apply online.
Recall rights vary by collective agreement. The best way to access yours is to log in to the BCGEU Member Portal. If, after reading it, you still have questions, please contact your shop steward or local chair.
Resources from the government of B.C. for students K-12 and their parents and caregivers during the pandemic:
  • WE Well-being is a free, virtual program for youth experiencing anxiety and social isolation, placing special emphasis on social-emotional learning and resiliency.
  • WE Schools @home offers free online tools and resources to complement and support at-home learning.
  • EASE (Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators) at Home has been adapted for parents and caregivers to create calming routines, help their children talk about difficult emotions and manage their anxiety.
  • Keep Learning is new site of resources for parents to support positive mental health, under the "Keeping Healthy" tab here.
  • For more info about available child and mental-health supports and contacts, visit here.
BC Housing has prepared a list of transition houses and safe homes for women fleeing violence.

The Hospital Employees' Union has prepared a list of businesses who are offering supports to health care workers.

Carleton University professor, Jennifer Robson, has prepared a plain language guide to help those trying to access government programs in the time of coronavirus.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has prepared a list of resources for workers and renters.

The B.C. Ministry of Health offers useful guidance and resources for managing mental health during challenging times.

We'll post more information as it becomes available to us.
No. The Provincial Health Officer has ordered all employers to excuse workers for sickness without requiring a doctor’s note (stated here under the Employment & Finances section).

This decision came after our public call for an end to doctors’ notes during the pandemic, and the BC Family Doctors’ public letter that workers could present to their employers if asked for a sick note.

If your employer still insists on a note, please contact your steward or health@bcgeu.ca.
If you suspect you were exposed and infected with COVID-19 due to the nature of your employment, you may be eligible to claim compensation for wage loss. What action you can take is dependent on your employer. If you’re a Public Service member, follow these instructions. All other members, here’s what to do:

  1. Be sure you meet the conditions set out by WorkSafeBC to make a wage loss compensation claim:
    • Evidence, either a medical diagnosis in a medical report or a non-medical factual evidence where other evidence establishes the existence of COVID-19.
    • The nature of your work created a risk of contracting the disease that is significantly greater than the ordinary exposure risk of the general public (example: an acute care hospital worker who is treating patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19).
    • You lose time from work after contracting the virus.

  2. If you meet the above conditions, file an application for workers’ compensation with WorkSafeBC here, like you would with any other workplace injury or disease. Application must be made by you, the worker, and not by your employer on your behalf. Because adjudication of claims takes time, it’s best to apply as soon as possible.
Please note:

  • If you are self-isolating, in quarantine or have been sent home on a precautionary basis, WorkSafeBC will NOT provide you with wage loss compensation as these measures are considered “preventative” and WorkSafeBC does not compensate for preventative reasons.
For more information, visit WorkSafeBC’s website or contact your workplace OHS representative, steward or the BCGEU staff representative assigned to your workplace.
This is a very stressful time for many people and their friends, family and coworkers. There are several resources available to help Canadians maintain positive mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

The B.C. government has launched new virtual mental health programs to help British Columbians cope with the pandemic. Virtual mental health resources are available for all ages, frontline healthcare workers, youth, seniors, victims of family or sexual violence, and Indigenous peoples.

Wellness Together Canada, a mental health portal available for all Canadians, provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed.

The B.C. Ministry of Health and Addictions has developed five recommendations and a list of resources for people of all ages to manage stress, anxiety and depression during these challenging times. The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions's website has additional resources for mental health and related issues.

The Canadian Mental Health Association also has several resources available for managing mental health during COVID-19.

WellCan is a new, free mental health resource hub, provided by Morneau Shepell and other Canadian community and corporate partners, to help all Canadians maintain positive mental, physical, social and financial health during the COVID-19 pandemic. View their toolkit for individuals.

If you need immediate support, contact one of the following:
  • HealthLink BC: Provides 24/7, confidential health information and advice. Call 8-1-1 or visit: www.healthlinkbc.ca.
  • Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre: Provides confidential, non-judgmental, free emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including thoughts of suicide. Call 604-872-3311 (Greater Vancouver), or toll-free 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433), or visit: www.crisiscentre.bc.ca.
  • The KUU-US Crisis Response Service: Provides 24/7 culturally-aware crisis support to Indigenous people in B.C. Call 1-800-588-8717 or visit: www.kuu-uscrisisline.ca.
  • Mental Health Digital Hub: A provincial website that provides information, services and education and awareness about mental health and substance use for adults, youth and children. Visit www.gov.bc.ca/mentalhealth.
  • Bounce Back: A free evidence-based program designed to help youth and adults experiencing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, low mood or stress, with or without anxiety. Bounce Back® teaches effective skills to help people improve their mental health. Call toll-free: 1-866-639-0522 or visit: www.bouncebackbc.ca.
  • MindHealthBC: Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Providence Health Care and community partners have created an online mental health counselling program. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health or substance use challenges, please visit the website for information and recommendations for further support in Vancouver, Richmond and other coastal communities. Visit: www.mindhealthbc.ca.
  • Heretohelp: Provides information about managing mental illness and maintaining good mental health, including self-management resources and screening self-tests for wellness, mood, anxiety and risky drinking. Visit: www.heretohelp.bc.ca.
  • Here2Talk: Confidential, free single-session counselling and referral services by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for post-secondary students from the Government of British Columbia. Visit here2talk.ca
The first and best thing you can do to help others during the pandemic is to adhere to all public health orders, namely physical distancing which includes maintaining a distance of two metres from others, staying home as much as possible, not gathering in person with anyone you don't share a home with, and self-isolating when sick.

In addition, if your situation permits, you can:
  • Donate blood
  • Offer to run errands for people who need to stay inside
  • Do "virtual babysitting" for people with children who are out of school/daycare
  • Organize a "drive-by" or "walk-by" party
  • Play an instrument where others can hear you
  • Do a together-but-distant social visit from your porch or sidewalk
If you can afford to help financially: No matter your situation, you can:
  • Connect with friends and families virtually or with a distance of at least two metres
  • Reach out frequently to those who may feel isolated (including elders)
  • Buy from local stores rather than big chains where possible
  • Join in your neighbourhood's daily "make noise to show gratitude & encouragement for frontline workers" event
  • SMILE at people when you're out (and use one of these alternatives to hugs or handshakes)
  • Surprise someone with a care package, handwritten letter, printed photo or home-decorated postcard, either dropped at their house or mailed
If you are on unpaid leave during the pandemic, please review this important information about your benefits and pension.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) at work:

Your employer is responsible to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for you. Your employer should be:

Following the direction of public health officials.

Following guidance from WorkSafeBC.

Identifying and assessing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace. This includes:
  • Seriously considering whether workers can be safely kept in the workplace by curtailing non-essential work and having employees work remotely (from home) if possible;
  • Ensuring workers do not come to work if:
    • Anyone with COVID‐19-like symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, sneezing, or coughing must self‐isolate at home for a minimum of 10 days from onset of symptoms, until their symptoms are completely resolved.
    • Workers who have travelled internationally. In these cases, they must remain away from the workplace for at least 14 days.
    • Workers who live in the same household as a confirmed or clinical COVID-19 case who is self-isolating.
Implementing preventive measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure, such as:
  • Putting in place social distancing measures including: reconfiguring the physical workplace, limiting in-person gatherings and encouraging remote communication practices (teleconferencing);
  • Educating workers on health and safety measures to prevent transmission of infectious diseases;
  • Increasing workplace cleaning, providing necessary supplies, and reinforcing personal hygiene messaging to workers;
  • Ensuring you have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Ensuring your workplace's Joint Occupational Health and Safety (JOHS) Committee continues to meet. Read more here about requirements of JOHS committees during COVID-19.

If you have questions about what this means in your workplace, please contact your workplace OHS representative, steward or the BCGEU staff representative assigned to your workplace.
If you witness a co-worker or employer representative at work with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, you should report it to your supervisor or manager.

You have the right to be directed to work at a safe distance from that individual.

Workers always have the right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the OHS Regulation. However, as a response to your work refusal, your employer can assign you to other work that is safe.
The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of Health suggest that older people with chronic health conditions and anyone with chronic diseases are at higher risk of developing more severe illness, complications or death if they become ill from COVID-19.

“Higher risk” people should seek medical help early if they become ill, and follow general preventative strategies against infection:
  • Maintain social distance (when indoors or in closed spaces, keep two metres between yourself and others);
  • Engage in protective self-isolation (avoid crowds or high-traffic areas, groups of children, and individuals who are sick, who have been in contact with someone who may have had COVID-19 in the last 14 days, or who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days);
  • Take additional precautionary measures (wash hands regularly and avoid touching your face).
If your employer is not ensuring your ability to follow this advice (for example, not fully implementing all social distancing measures or allowing at the workplace someone who has been advised by the Medical Health Officer to self-isolate), you have two options:

  1. Refusal of unsafe work: Follow these instructions to initiate the process. Note: You cannot lose pay while asserting your rights under the refusal of unsafe work provision of the OHS regulation. You are also protected from any adverse treatment due to a work refusal, thanks to provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act (sections 150-153) that prohibit discriminatory action. Most BCGEU collective agreements include additional protection against reprisals.

  2. Medical accommodation (only for BCGEU members with an ongoing medical condition that meets the BC Human Rights Code definition of a physical disability): Members may make a request in writing (email is acceptable) for medical accommodation pursuant to the Human Rights Code of British Columbia. In your request, you must include the specific accommodation you’re requesting and the nature of your medical condition. If you’re concerned about privacy, you may submit this request to your employer's OHS or HR department. You will then need to secure a letter from your doctor that confirms your medical condition and advises on the restrictions or limitations required of your employer to accommodate your medical conditions and how the long the accommodation is required.
Employers are instructed to apply the hierarchy of controls as an effective approach to COVID-19 safety. The hierarchy of controls is a system for controlling risk in the workplace that involves eliminating or reducing risks through controls ranked from the most effective and highest level of protection to lesser levels of protection. More information about the hierarchy of controls can be found here . More guidance about personal protective equipment (PPE) while working with the public during COVID-19 can be found here.
According to infection control guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada, contact and droplet precautions are required when providing care for confirmed COVID-19 patients or for patients under investigation for COVID-19. For healthcare workers, these precautions involve wearing gloves, a surgical mask, face shield and a long-sleeved gown. Aerosol producing medical procedures require additional PPE, including an N95 or similar mask.

Overall, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings at risk of exposure to COVID-19. The BCGEU expects employers to:
  • Provide timely, specific and clear direction to workers on the infection control protocols they will follow to avoid exposure to the virus;
  • Ensure there is sufficient PPE available for workers and provide the training to use it.
If you do not have the PPE you need for an assigned task: STOP and SPEAK WITH YOUR SUPERVISOR. You have the right to refuse unsafe work, as per Section 3.12 of the OHS Regulation, but you must follow the process of doing so here step-by-step.
If you work in a home (private residence, group home or long-term care facility) and your client and/or other individuals in the home show symptoms of COVID-19, STOP and TELL YOUR SUPERVISOR IMMEDIATELY. Symptoms include sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing.

If you are not clear about the safe procedure for caring for your client and/or you don’t have the personal protective equipment (PPE) you believe you need, STOP and TELL YOUR SUPERVISOR IMMEDIATELY.

Your employer must assess if it is safe to provide care for your client by answering these questions BEFORE you do the work:
  • Has the employer provided you with training and safe work procedures to deal with a person with COVID-19?
  • Has the employer provided you with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)?
  • Have you received training on how to take your PPE on and off?
  • Has the employer given you direction on how to dispose of contaminated materials?
Employers should be prepared to respond if someone at work becomes ill. Your union expects that employers will:
  • Ensure the health and safety of workers who provide care/services to people with COVID-19 (probable or confirmed).
  • Ensure that workers and clients (where possible) with confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, or others required to self-isolate, are not allowed in the workplace.
  • As soon as possible, inform workers and clients who may have been exposed.
  • Advise workers on what to do next. Workers should be advised to contact 8-1-1, and to use the self-assessment tool. Some workers may be required to self-isolate.
  • Contact public health authorities for advice and assistance.
  • Take steps to prevent additional exposure.
  • Notify WorkSafeBC if the infection occurred at the workplace. Workers that become ill from their work may be entitled to compensation.
  • Keep a record of employees that have been exposed at work.
If you have questions about what this means in your workplace, please contact your workplace OHS representative, steward or the BCGEU staff representative assigned to your workplace.
This is a very stressful time for many people and their friends, family and coworkers. If you or the people you care about need support, you may consider the following: If you are an essential worker, the Mental Health Commission of Canada is offering free online crisis response training to better under your own mental health and the mental health of your team and others.
You should be in touch with your primary care provider for advice as to whether it is physically and psychologically safe for you to continue at work.

There is currently no evidence that those who are pregnant are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing more serious outcomes from the disease. However, right now there is only limited data available about COVID-19 and pregnancy. Out of an abundance of caution, the following is recommended:
  • Pregnant employees concerned about exposure to the virus should discuss with their employer options to be moved to an area where their risk of exposure is minimal. Your employer must ensure adequate infection control and personal protective measures are in place.
  • If you require an accommodation because of your pregnancy status, the regular procedure is to be followed: contact your supervisor to request an accommodation, which could include alternate duties or allowing you to work from home if possible. If neither is possible, you may be placed on sick leave or paid general leave, depending on your employer and your specific circumstances.
  • It is always important for pregnant workers to protect themselves from illnesses and take the appropriate steps to avoid and prevent infection. Following safe work procedures, wearing PPE as required, regular hand washing and other hygiene measures can help reduce the risk of getting an infection or spreading infection to others.
Find more information about pregnancy and COVID-19 here: *for pregnant workers talking with their primary care provider, the HealthLinkBC site notes that the Reproductive Infectious Diseases Service at BC Women’s Hospital is available for phone consultation for health care providers of pregnant women with documented or suspected COVID-19 in pregnancy (604-875-2161).

BCGEU symbol Union Business:

Effective November 20 all BCGEU Offices are closed in accordance with PHO instructions issues November 19. Essential and non-essential meetings, including education and OHS courses have been shifted to Zoom. For more information please contact your local Area Office.
The office closure will not impact members' ability to access the core services and supports of your union. During this period of remote work, local chairs will continue to have direct access to staff representatives. Members with questions or issues related to COVID-19 or regular labour relations can contact their steward or local chair as they normally would. In addition, members with questions or concerns specific to COVID-19 in their workplace can email those questions to health@bcgeu.ca
Please email your BCGEU area office or call to leave a voicemail (offices are closed with all voicemails being transferred to email). Staff will get in contact with your steward or reach out directly. Area office contact info.
Article 10.6 of the BCGEU constitution stipulates that only Convention can set the rate of union dues. Right now they are set at 1.85% of gross pay. This means that any members experiencing a reduction in pay, will also benefit from a corresponding reduction in union dues, charged as a percentage of wages.

We do not have the ability to suspend union dues at this time. Doing so would mean a loss of operating revenue that allows the union to pay our staff, and continue to operate at a time when our members are drawing heavily on the need for our shared resources. Without dues, we would cease to function as a union, and we would be unable to do advocacy on their behalf, enforce our collective agreement, or support the various occupational health and safety issues now arising urgently in the crisis.

We understand the stress the current pandemic is causing. It’s why, in addition to closely serving our members, we are advocating for key government reforms that will benefit our members, some of whom in the private and broader public sectors have been laid off.

If we lose our ability to advocate on behalf of members politically, we will not be able to push for and win the critical measures necessary to helping working people during the economic downturn of the pandemic.

I would like to direct you to the union’s pandemic response site, which outlines some of the important work being conducted now.

The COVID-19 illness:

Right now, the answer is different for everybody. Please check with your employer for clarification on any changes to standard operating procedures. Above all, we urge all members and the public to keep up-to-date with public health efforts and follow their directives at all times.
BC COVID-19 self-assessment tool – helps determine whether you may need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. If you would like further information about testing, please consult the BC Centres for Disease Control here.
It’s important to get information from reliable, official sources and to check frequently as information is updated daily. Here are links to a few that the BCGEU recommends: