HEU and COVID-19

Updated May 12, 2020

HEU and COVID-19 Information for members


COVID-19 HEU Hotline

HEU has set up a COVID-19 hotline to answer questions for HEU members related to their workplace and their employment. The line will be monitored Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekends. The line will not be monitored on Statutory Holidays.

Your shop steward in your workplace may know the answers to many of your questions -- or will know how to get them -- so check with them first.

Single-site Staffing

New orders for single-site staffing
  • NEW: On April 10, two new orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer outline a plan to protect seniors and support workers through a transition to single-site staffing for the long-term care sector and assisted living sector. Details in our April 11 newsletter.
  • As the single-site order is implemented, wages in this sector will be raised to levels in the FBA agreement, or in the cases of nurses, the Nurses Bargaining Association (NBA) collective agreement.
  • Single-site staffing allocations will be made at the health authority level according to a set of principles in the Health Care Staff Designation order (below).
  • Workers who have previously been directed to work at one site may have the opportunity to be reallocated to a different site under this order.
  • Worker preferences that were collected late last month through an online survey will also be considered, along with ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of staff assigned to facilities.
  • Workers will have access to hours comparable to those worked at multiple sites, at their single site.
  • Combined seniority hours will also be recognized in shift scheduling.
  • The orders apply to staff in long-term care, assisted living, private hospitals (these are a type of long-term care), and provincial mental health facilities.
  • Workers can’t work in more than one of these facilities under these orders, but they can hold an additional job in community health or community social services, a hospital or in another sector.
  • There are a number of exceptions set out in the Health Care Staff Designation Order, including Lab Assistants who may visit multiple sites in the course of their work.
  • More information on the orders will be posted in the following days.
  • www.bchealthstaffing.ca is no longer taking submissions.

Read HEU's full newsletter here.
Order 1: The Health Care Staff Designation Order 
Order 2: The Health Care Labour Adjustment (COVID-19) Order

Single-site Staffing Questions and Answers

Answers to frequently asked questions about the single-site order can be found here.

Safety at work

I’ve had symptoms of COVID19 or confirmed to have COVID19. Can I file a WCB claim?

Yes. You can file a claim with WorkSafeBC as soon as you have missed time from work or need health care treatment for a work-related injury or disease, including COVID19.

There are three different ways for you to file a claim:

You must also to report your injury or illness to your employer.

  • Health Authority employees call the Workplace Health Call Centre at 1-866-922-9464
  • Affiliate/Independent employees fill out an Incident/Injury Report. Ask your supervisor for the form.

You must apply for WorkSafeBC benefits on your own.

If your claim is denied or if your benefits are discontinued, HEU is here to help you! If you need help in filing an appeal, please contact HEU’s WCB hotline at 604-456-7186 or toll-free at 1-877-438-5550 or by email at benefits@heu.org.

I think I was exposed to COVID19 at work. What do I do?

Workplace exposure can occur in situations where you do not have appropriate protective measures when you are in close contact with someone who has COVID 19. For example, you did not have all of the PPE required for the situation or you determine that the PPE is damaged after the work activity is complete.

If you believe you were exposed to COVID19 while at work, you must report the incident to your employer.

  • Health Authority employees call the Workplace Health Call Centre at 1-866-922-9464
  • Affiliate/Independent employees fill out an Incident/Injury Report. Ask your supervisor for the form.

Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. You can also call 8-1-1 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC and get advice about how you are feeling and what to do next. 8-1-1 has translation services in 130 languages.

If you develop symptoms or are confirmed to have COVID19, file a claim with WSBC to cover your time lost from work and your medical care. Get more information on how to file a claim.

The Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control has published a guidance document to help public health, medical health officers, workplace health and safety, your employer, and you assess the risk of a situation and determine next steps.

For more information see:

Exposures and return to work for health care workers

The BC Health Care Worker Exposures Risk Assessment Tool

Recommendations for Risk Assessment and Management of Health Care Worker Exposures to COVID-19 Patients: Interim Guidance for the Provincial Workplace Health Call Centre

Wearing PPE all day is irritating my skin. What can I do?

Wearing PPE more often and for longer periods of time may cause adverse skin reactions, such as burning, itching, stinging, contact dermatitis, hives, ulcers, scaling, papules, cracks and maceration.

The BC CDC has published an interim guidance on strategies to prevent skin damage, and strategies to manage skin damage from prolonged PPE use. Download it here.

If you seek medical attention or treatment for skin damage, and reactions, file a claim with WCB and report the injury to your employer.

Which Personal Protective Equipment do I need?

Are you caring for someone under investigation or confirmed with COVID-19?
Yes, you must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when providing care to someone with COVID-19.

When someone with COVID-19 speaks, coughs or sneezes they expel droplets containing the virus.  Current science suggests these droplets can travel up to 6 feet, landing on people and surfaces in the environment nearby as they settle to the ground.

The virus can spread if these droplets land in your eyes, nose or throat when you are in close contact, such as providing direct patient care. It can also spread if you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.  

Watch the World Health Organization's video explaining how COVID-19 is spread.

At this time, routine care for patients under investigation or confirmed to have COVID-19 requires contact and droplet precautions to help prevent virus droplets from reaching your eyes, nose, and mouth while you work.

Contact and droplet precautions are:
-    Gloves
-    Gown
-    Surgical or medical mask
-    Eye or face protection (such as a visor or goggles)

For the steps to put on and take off this PPE, visit the BC CDC’s webpage.

N95 respirators

Health care workers must wear an N95 respirator, instead of the regular mask, when performing or assisting with an aerosol-generating medical procedure (AGMP).

N95s are specialized masks that filter the tiny droplets from the air you breathe, preventing you from breathing in the very small droplets that may be released during an AGMP. You must pass a fit test to use an N95.

AGMPs Requiring N95 respirators for patients or residents suspected of having COVID-2019, confirmed to have COVID19, or those with influenza like illness: 
•    Autopsies involving respiratory tissues
•    CPR with Bag valve mask ventilation
•    Bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage
•    Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
•    Intubation and extubation procedures
•    Nasopharyngeal aspirates, washes, and scoping
•    Nebulized therapy
•    Open airway suctioning
•    Sputum Induction

You require an N95 if you are:

  • assisting with one of these procedures
  • going into a room to assist while one is being done
  • entering a room immediately after one is done
  • entering a room after one is done, before the required air clearance time has lapsed.

Air clearance time is the time in minutes needed for air exchanges to reduce contaminants in the air. In general:

  • in acute care a minimum of 1 hour is required to pass before its safe to enter a room without an N95, after an AGMP is complete
  • in long term care a minimum of 2 hours is required to pass before its safe to enter a room without an N95, after an AGMP is complete

This is for any occupation and includes care aides in long term care. For example, if you are assisting a resident with COVID19 during their nebulizer treatment, or entering their room to provide care immediately after one is done, you are required to wear an N95.

For more details please see page 4 of the Information Sheet for Environmental Service Providers in Health Care Settings.

You must be fit tested for an N95 and be provided with training in it’s use. 

Your employer is required to inform you if you need an N95 for your work and provide you with a fit test each year.

If an AGMP is being performed – it must be communicated to staff.  For example, a sign saying “airborne precautions” may be posted at a patient’s door.

Your employer is required to implement measures to eliminate or minimize the potential for exposure to COVID-19 while you work. Personal protective equipment is only one of those measures and must be combined with others to reduce risks to you.

Can an N95 respirator be reprocessed?

Yes, some types of N95 respirators can be reprocessed.  

The Ministry of Health is piloting an initiative to reprocess masks for potential reuse by health care workers during the COVID-19 response. They are working with Infection Prevention and Controls experts, Medical Device Reprocessing experts, mask manufacturers, and Health Canada.

According to their bulletin, reprocessed respirators are marked as reprocessed, inspected and assessed to ensure they meet NIOSH/Health Canada and WorkSafeBC requirements before they are stockpiled.  Reprocessed masks will be stockpiled and only used in a circumstance where new N95s or equivalent respirators are not available.

For more information, click here.

Is there guidance for the safe-handling of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

Yes, the BC CDC and Ministry of Health have published an Interim Guidance.

According to the guidance, workers must follow Routine Practices, which includes the appropriate use of PPE, performing diligent hand hygiene with plain soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (70% alcohol content), appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of equipment, and appropriate environmental cleaning.

Your employer is required to inform you of what PPE you need and procedures to follow if your tasks involve moving or handling a deceased person.

What is the guidance for laundry and cleaning in health care settings?

The Ministry of Health has published a new “COVID-19 Information Sheet for Environmental Service Providers in Health Care Settings”.

It provides guidance on:

  • personal protective equipment for housekeeping and environmental service staff
  • environmental cleaning
  • waste management
  • handling laundry

The document confirms the following:

  • Environmental service staff are not to enter rooms or open-air COVID-19 units where an Aerosol Generating Medical Procedure (AGMP) has been conducted until required time has elapsed for air exchanges, and to use a fit-tested N95 respirator if entry to a room is required immediately after an AGMP procedure or before the required air clearance time has lapsed.
  • For cleaning tasks in rooms where an AGMP is not involved, the PPE housekeeping and environmental service staff working in COVID19 units or rooms on droplet and contact precautions is:
    • Gloves
    • Gown
    • Eye protection (goggles, face shield, a mask with a visor, or safety glasses) 
    • Mask (surgical/procedure mask or one suited to the cleaning products being used)
    • Closed work shoes

It also states  “During the COVID-19 pandemic, all persons working in or visiting a Long-Term Care and Seniors Assisted Living facility should wear a surgical mask for the full duration of their shift or visit:

  • Surgical masks should be removed just prior to breaks or when leaving the facility.  
  • Surgical masks should be changed if the masks become wet, damaged or visibly soiled.
  • Once removed, the mask must be disposed of or placed in a receptacle for reprocessing. Do not put the mask back on.

For more information, click here.

Is it okay to wear a cloth mask at work? 

Personal protective equipment for healthcare workers includes medical grade procedure or surgical masks for routine care, and N95 respirators for anyone performing or assisting with aerosol generating medical procedures.   

Medical masks help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, from reaching your mouth and nose, and must meet specific manufacturing standards.  They protect you while working closely with your patient, client, or resident.

Cloth masks are not designed to block respiratory droplets from reaching your mouth and nose. At this time, they are not appropriate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Health Canada has advised that wearing a non-medical mask or face covering while out in public is optional. It is another way to cover your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. They can be used for short periods of time in community settings when physical distancing is not possible, such as when grocery shopping or using public transit.

Cloth masks are not a substitute for physical distancing and hand-washing.  If you choose to wear a cloth mask in the community, remember these safety measures:
•    Don’t touch the outside of the mask or your eyes
•    Don’t share it with others
•    Make sure it fits well
•    Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off
•    If re-usable, wash it frequently.  
•    If not re-usable, please dispose of in garbage bins.  Do not litter.

For more information:

Health Canada


How do I clean my eye protection?

If you are provided reusable eye or facial protection, it must be disinfected before use.
In some cases, such as acute care/hospital sites, there may be a procedure in place to have equipment reprocessed for you.

In smaller settings like community health or long-term care, you may be assigned to clean this equipment.  In this case, your employer is required to provide you with information, training, and supplies to complete the task.

The BC CDC has published the following guidance on how to disinfect eye and facial protection:  http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Professionals-Site/Documents/COVID19_EyeFacialProtectionDisinfection.pdf


What about contracted (independent) care homes, their sub-contractors, and contractors in hospitals food and housekeeping?

Because of the increase in contracted services and operators in B.C. hospitals and long-term care homes, the union has told health officials that they must take steps to ensure these contractors are clearly instructed on infection control protocols and PPE requirements in response to the coronavirus threat.

The union is also working with public health officials to ensure that health care workers are treated fairly and appropriately in this crisis regardless of their employer.

For more information on guidance for long-term care and assisted living facilities, visit the link below:

Infection Prevention and Control for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Interim guidance for Long-term Care and Assisted Living Facilities

COVID-19 and Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees 

The BC Workers Compensation Act (WCA) requires employers to establish a joint health and safety committee in workplaces with 20 or more workers. The Act also states that the joint committee must meet regularly at least once each month.

During the COVID-19 crisis, it is more important than ever for JOHS Committees to meet and discuss COVID-19-related OHS issues they are dealing with in their workplace.

We are hearing from HEU members that some employers are telling JOHS committees that their monthly committee meetings are cancelled or suspended until further notice.

HEU has learned from WorkSafeBC that this is not the case. WorkSafeBC expects that committees will continue to meet monthly just as the legislation sets out.  
If your JOHS committee has been cancelled please report this to the WorkSafeBC Prevention Line and ask for an action request claim number.
phone: 604.276.3100 (Lower Mainland)
Toll-free: 1.888.621.7233 (1.888.621.SAFE) (Canada)

Also, email ohs@heu.org and let us know that you have called WorkSafeBC to report.

COVID-19 testing for health care workers

As a health care worker, you are ensured access to a COVID19 test if you are symptomatic.
Please check the Provincial Health Services Authority’s webpage for a list of testing sites in your health authority.

From phsa.ca:

Testing criteria
Staff must meet testing criteria, which includes:

  • Fever & cough or shortness of breath (new/worsening – not pre-existing)

OR TWO of the following symptoms:

  • Fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, fatigue/malaise, rhinorrhea

Less frequent symptoms associated with COVID-19 include: sore throat, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, chest pain and conjunctivitis.  Clinic staff will discuss with a designated medical microbiologist if staff requesting testing have these or other symptoms not meeting the criteria above.

If you are self-monitoring while at work or are on your days off and experiencing symptoms as described above, you may come to get your test (nasopharyngeal swab), followed by self-isolation until your test results are back.
You will receive a phone call with your results.

What should my employer do if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed in my workplace?

It is the responsibility of health employers to ensure workers are properly informed and equipped to work in settings where there’s a risk of exposure to COVID-19.

HEU expects health authorities and other health employers will provide timely, specific and clear direction to health care workers on the infection control protocols they will follow to avoid exposure to the virus.

Health employers are also expected to have sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for health care workers, and provide the training to use it, including fit-testing for respirators where they are required.

Workers should always apply a precautionary approach to their work, and consult a supervisor with any questions about protocols or the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

How can I reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19?

You can reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:

  • Follow your work site unit or employer infection control policies. If you are unsure about what’s needed, talk to your supervisor, before doing the task you are assigned.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Minimize your contact with others through physical distancing by keeping about two metres apart.
  • Wear the required PPE.
    • Routine care tasks with patients under investigation or confirmed to have COVID19 requires contact and droplet precautions: gloves, gown, mask, eye/face protection.
    • Performing or assisting with an aerosol-generating medical procedure requires an N95 respirator instead of a mask.
    • AGMPs Requiring N95 Respirators for COVID-2019 Patients
      • Autopsies involving respiratory tissues
      • CPR with Bag valve mask ventilation
      • Bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage
      • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
      • Intubation and extubation procedures
      • Nasopharyngeal aspirates, washes, and scoping
      • Nebulized therapy
      • Open airway suctioning
      • Sputum Induction
  • Ask for training or a refresher on how to put on, take off, and dispose of PPE correctly.
  • If you do not have the PPE you need, stop and speak with your supervisor.
  • If your concerns are not resolved, talk to your shop steward, OHS steward or Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee member about the next steps.
  • If you think you’ve been exposed, report to your employer using their incident report process.
  • Stay home if you are experiencing the flu and common cold. This includes symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Call 811 or use the self-assessment tool to for further direction  https://bc.thrive.health/

My rights at work

Your Workplace OH&S Rights – COVID19 PPE

You have a right to a safe workplace. View HEU's poster on your basic health and safety rights.

Your rights & personal protective equipment (PPE)

Right to know:

  • Your employer must provide you with training in how to correctly put on, take off, dispose of, or maintain the personal protective equipment you need for your job, to protect you from COVID19.
  • Your employer must inform you when you must use the PPE. For example, Look for signage are patient room doors.
  • Your employer must inform you of the other measures implemented to reduce the potential for exposure to COVID19.

Right to Participate

  • You have the right to ask questions about what measures are in place to protect you and to raise the concerns you have. Two ways to participate are speaking directly with your supervisor, and connecting with your JOHSC member.

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

  • You have the right to refuse to do unsafe work, such as tasks you believe will put you or anyone else at risk of injury or work-related illness. You must follow the process.
  • While your concern is being investigated, you may be assigned to temporary alternative work at no loss of pay, until the matter is resolved.
  • You cannot be disciplined in any way for exercising your right to refuse unsafe work even if WorkSafeBC decides the work is safe.
What does WorkSafeBC say about my employer’s obligations to ensure a healthy workplace?

“Employers have an obligation under the Workers Compensation Act section 21 (previously s.115) to ensure the health and safety of workers at their workplace and places where work is being done. With respect to COVID-19, this obligation includes protecting workers by following the orders of the provincial health officer and guidance provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control and developing control measures to prevent worker exposure.”

For more information, including:
-    examples of control measures to prevent worker exposure
-    the role of Joint OHS Committees, and
-    the right to reuse unsafe work

Can my employer make me self-isolate?

The union is aware that some health employers are requiring self-isolation for workers outside the guidance from the Public Health Agency or the BC Centre for Disease Control. Please contact your shop steward or servicing representative if you find yourself in this situation.

There may be other circumstances under which health care workers will be asked not to report to work. HEU is working with government and employers to minimize the economic impact of these directives on workers.

Can I lose my job if I can’t work because of COVID-19?

On March 23, 2020, the Provincial Government passed amendments to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) introducing unpaid, job-protected leave for employees who are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19.

The amendments also include a new three-day unpaid, job-protected sick leave that will support employees on an ongoing basis when they cannot work due to illness or injury.

COVID-19 Leave

This immediate and unlimited job-protected leave allows employees affected by COVID-19 to stay home without the risk of losing their job.

This leave is available to individuals considered employees under the Employment Standards Act who are unable to work for any of the following reasons:

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse;
  • are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), or guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • have been directed by their employer not to work due to concern about their exposure to others;
  • need to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure; or
  • are outside of B.C. and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions.

This leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, when the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in B.C. This means that for any employee that was were terminated on or after January 27, 2020, for one of the reasons set out above, their employer is required to offer them “re-employment in the same or a comparable position,” and their previous absence from work will be deemed to be a leave under the amendments to the ESA.

Under this leave, employers are entitled to ask employees for “reasonably sufficient proof” of eligibility; however, they are prohibited from asking the employee for a doctor’s note.

COVID-19 job-protected leave is tied specifically to the COVID-19 emergency and will be repealed when it is no longer needed.

Personal Illness or Injury Leave

Employees covered under the Employment Standards Act will be entitled to take up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave per calendar year if they are unable to work due to personal illness or injury.

This leave applies to employees who have worked for their employer for at least 90 days. If requested by their employer, employees need to provide reasonable and sufficient proof that they are ill or injured and therefore entitled to the leave.

This is a permanent change to the ESA that provides British Columbians with job-protection for personal illness or injury in accordance with most other jurisdictions.

What about paid leave if I'm directed to self-isolate or I am ill with COVID-19

For members covered by the Facilities Collective Agreement (FBA) or Community Health Collective Agreement (CBA) only:

Self-Isolation as directed by public health officials

All health care workers returning from Italy, Iran and Hubei Province in China, and some health care workers from all international destinations including the U.S., are being directed to self-isolate by public health officials (Please refer to the section above: Travel and Self Isolation). Contact 811 or public health and follow the directions for self-isolation. Employees will be put on a general paid leave of absence* (i.e. not sick leave) for the duration of self-isolation. In some circumstances, where it is feasible, employees may be asked to work from home rather than being put on general paid leave.

Employees who are instructed by a qualified medical practitioner or public health official to self-isolate at home for reasons other than travel such as a potential exposure will be put on a general leave of absence for the duration of the recommended isolation. Again, in some circumstances where it is feasible, employees may be asked to work from home rather than being put on general paid leave.

*General paid leave of absence is full pay for employees for their regular schedule. Casuals who are directed to self-isolate will be compensated according to a formula. This will not affect other leave banks.

If a member is infected by COVID 19 at their worksite they should apply for sick leave, but also file a WorkSafeBC claim. All members should file a WorkSafeBC claim even if they have enough sick time credits.

Working from Home: Employers may request members who are asymptomatic and who have been instructed by a qualified medical practitioner to self-isolate at home may be able to work from home instead of being on general paid leave.

For members covered by the Community Social Services Agreement (CSSBA) Read your sector’s COVID-19 update.

For members covered by independent collective agreements with hospital support service contractors, long-term care and assisted living operators, and care and support contractors:

HEU is urging government and health employers to provide all health care workers with general paid leave and adequate sick leave so that they are not economically impacted because of their role in the health care system.

In cases where HEU is aware that members have been asked to self-isolate, they have been put on general paid leave regardless of their employer. But the union continues to demand that government establish a clear policy that extends general paid leave provisions and adequate sick leave across all health care employers.

Other supports

What income support can I access?

If you were laid off or lost your income because of COVID-19, you may be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, EI regular benefits, or EI compassionate care and caregiving benefits.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

On March 25, 2020, the Federal Government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides temporary income support to workers who have stopped working, who are making no more than $1,000 per month as a result of COVID-19, or who are eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits. The CERB is a taxable benefit that provides $500 per week for up to a maximum of 16 weeks.

The CERB covers workers (including self-employed and contract workers) who:

  • Are residing in Canada and are at least 15 years old;
  • Have stopped working as a result of COVID-19 or are eligible for E.I. regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted their E.I. regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
  • Had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application earned from any or a combination of the following sources: employment, self-employment, and/or maternal or parental EI benefits;
  • Have not voluntarily quit their job; and
  • Earn no more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the first four-week period. For subsequent claim periods, individuals cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income.

This taxable benefit is available to, but is not limited to, workers who:

  • Have lost their job or their hours have been reduced and their monthly income is no more than $1,000;
  • Are quarantined or sick with COVID-19;
  • Are away from work to take care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19;
  • Are away from work to take care of children or other dependents who require care or supervision due to school or daycare closures; and
  • Are workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work as a result of COVID-19.

People who are already receiving EI regular and sickness benefits should not apply to the CERB. If their EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, and they are unable to return to work due to COVID-19, they can apply for the CERB once their EI benefits end.

The online application portal opened on April 6, 2020 and workers are able to apply for the CERB retroactively to March 15, 2020. Applications can be made online through Service Canada, CRA My Account, or by an automated toll-free phone number: 1-800-959-2019. Individuals can apply for the CERB through either Service Canada or Canada Revenue Agency – not both.

Payments under the CERB will be made, within 10 days of submitting an application, by either cheque or direct deposit. The CERB will be paid every four weeks and will be available from March 15, 2020, until October 3, 2020, and workers will need to apply and reconfirm their eligibility every 4 weeks.

Learn more:



Employment Insurance – Sickness Benefits

Workers who are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine may be eligible to apply for EI sickness benefits, which provides for temporary income support for up to 15 weeks. If the employer offers paid sick leave or short-term disability program, workers should access those entitlements first before applying for EI sickness benefits. Workers who sustained an injury at the workplace including contracting COVID-19 should make a claim with WorkSafeBC. For workers who do not have paid sick leave or short-term disability benefits, they can apply for EI sickness benefits right away as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

To be eligible, a worker needs to show the following:

  • they are unable to work for medical reasons;
  • their weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week; and
  • they have accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the past 52 weeks before the start of their claim or since the start of their last claim, whichever is shorter. This is known as the “qualifying period”.

Workers who have not accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the qualifying period may be eligible for income support under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Normally to qualify for sickness benefits, workers need to provide a medial certificate showing they are unable to work for medical reasons. In March 2020, the Federal Government announced medical certificates are no longer required from people claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine related to COVID-19. In addition, the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined due to COVID-19 so that they can be paid for the first week of their claim. Workers who are unable to complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay.

Generally, workers can expect to receive 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573, but the exact amount and duration of benefits will depend on the workers’ insurable earnings and expected date of recovery.

Click here for more information about EI sickness benefits including how to apply.


Employment Insurance – Regular Benefits

Workers who have lost their job because of COVID-19 but are ready, willing and capable of work may be eligible for EI regular benefits, which provides some temporary income support while they are looking for work.

To be eligible, a worker needs to show the following:

  • they have been employed insurable employment;
  • have lost their job through no fault of their own;
  • have been without work and without pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • have worked for the required number of insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of their last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • is ready, willing and capable of working each day; and
  • is actively looking for work (must keep a record of job search activities).

The number of insurable hours required will depend on the unemployment rate of the region in which the worker resides. For the Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford regions, the required insurable hours is 700. For the Southern Interior BC region, the required insurable hours is 665. For the Southern Coastal BC region, the required insurable hours is 630, and for the Northern BC region, it is 525 hours.

Generally, workers can expect to receive 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573, but the exact amount and duration of benefits will depend on the workers’ insurable earnings.

Click here for more information about EI regular benefits, including how to apply.


EI compassionate care and caregiving benefits

EI compassionate care and caregiving benefits are paid to people who have to take time off work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care. If the critically ill person requires care because of COVID-19, workers should consider applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (see above) as it might be difficult to obtain a medical certificate at this time.

To qualify for EI caregiving benefits, one must demonstrate that:

  • they are a family member of the person who is critically ill or injured or needing end-of-life care, or are considered to be like a family member;
  • their regular weekly earnings from work have decreased by more than 40% for at least one week because they needed to take time away from work to provide care or support to the person;
  • they accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before the start of the claim, or since the start of their last claim, whichever is shorter;
  • a medical doctor or nurse practitioner has certified that the person

Generally, workers can expect to receive 55% of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $573, but the exact amount and duration of benefits will depend on the workers’ insurable earnings and the expected date that the critically ill or injured person will no longer require care.

Click here for more information about EI compassionate care and caregiving benefits, including how to apply.

Other Available Income Support - Updated May 11

As part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Federal Government also announced the following measures to support people who have been impacted by COVID-19:

  • An extra $300 per child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) will be provided. The benefit will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May.
  • Allowing for deferral of ICBC payments for up to 90 days with no penalty.
  • One-time special payment by early May through the GST/HST credit for low- and modest-income families. The average additional benefit will be close to $400 for a single individual and $600 for couples.
  • Increasing flexibility for mortgage lenders to allow them to defer mortgage payments for up to six months.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) provides eligible Canadian employers whose businesses have been affected by COVID-19 with up to a 75% employee wage subsidy, on the first $58,700 an employee earns, up to a maximum of $847 a week. This subsidy is available for a maximum of 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020 until June 6, 2020.

To receive the CEWS, employers must:

  • Be an eligible employer;
  • Have experienced an eligible reduction in revenue; and
  • Have had a CRA payroll account on March 15, 2020.

Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, partnerships, non-profit organizations, labour organizations and societies, and registered charities.

Employers must also have experienced an eligible reduction in revenue, meaning a drop of at least 15% in March 2020, and 30% in April and May 2020 from their business’s “baseline revenue”.

Employers can calculate their monthly “baseline revenue” by using either the revenue earned in the same month in 2019 or the average of the income earned in January and February 2020. The employer must use the same method of “baseline revenue” calculation for all claim periods.

If an employer qualifies for CEWS for a claim period, they will automatically qualify for the subsequent claim period. For more information on eligible employers and eligible revenue reduction, click here.

Eligible Employees

An eligible employee is an individual who is employed in Canada during the claim period. Employees who were laid off or furloughed can retroactively become eligible if an employer first rehires and back-pays them for the CEWS claim period. However, employees who receive this back-pay and who, as a result, are no longer eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”), will be responsible for repaying any received CERB for the claim period.

Eligible employee remuneration includes amounts paid as salary, wages and other taxable benefits, fees, and commissions. Severance pay and items such as stock option benefits or personal use of a corporate vehicle are not part of eligible remuneration.

How to Apply

The online application portal opened on April 27, 2020. Employers can apply for the CEWS through their CRA My Business Account or through CRA’s Web Forms application. Before applying, employers should ensure their payroll account direct deposit information is up to date.

Payments made under the CEWS are taxable and will be made by direct deposit on an employer’s payroll account or by cheque. Employers choosing direct deposit can expect to receive payments within 10 business days.

Employers who do not meet the eligibility requirements for CEWS will be required to repay any amounts received. Penalties may apply in cases of fraudulent claims, including fines or even imprisonment.

In cases where employers artificially reduce revenue for the purposes of claiming CEWS, they will be subject to a penalty equal to 25% of the value of the subsidy claimed, in addition to repaying the entire subsidy.

Learn more:




The B.C. Government also announced the following measures to support people who have been impacted by COVID-19:

  • B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, which will provide a one-time tax-free payment of $1,000 to British Columbians who are receiving EI or the new federal emergency benefit because of COVID-19.
  • One-time enhancement to the Climate Action Tax Credit, which will be paid in July 2020 to moderate to low-income families. An adult will receive up to $218.00 (increased from $43.50) and a child will receive $64.00 (increased from $12.75).
  • Starting March 30, 2020, B.C. student loan payments are automatically frozen for six months.
  • Temporary rent supplement (available April, May and June) that will provide household up to $500 per month towards their rent, paid directly to landlords.
    • Eligible households without dependents can access $300 a month, households with dependents can access $500. Roommates can individually access the supplement.
    • more information including eligibility criteria can be found at http://bchousing.org/bctrs
  • Halting the enforcement of existing eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns.
  • As of April 1, 2020, freezing new annual rent increase during the state of emergency.
  • Allowing deferral of BC Hydro bill payments with no penalty. People who experienced job loss, illness or lost wages because of COVID-19 can access up to $600 to pay their hydro bills through the Customer Crisis Fund.
What if my employer requires a sick note?

Employers have been strongly advised NOT to require sick notes during the COVID-19 outbreak. If your employer asks you for one, the BC Family Doctors have put out a letter that you can use.

Resources for workers during COVID19

The BC Federation of Labour has compiled a list of resources for workers.

Community Savings has created a special interest-free Line of Credit for working people facing financial difficulty during this crisis.

BC Hydro COVID Relief Fund (April 1, 2020)

  • BC Hydro is offering bill credits to help customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19
  • The credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home (the average credit will be $477)
  • It does not have to be repaid.



Fortis BC Customer Recovery Fund

  • Customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19 can apply to have their bills automatically deferred, from April 1 to June 30, 2020.
  • The repayment plan will be interest free and spread out over the following 12 months


ICBC deferrals and waived fees

  • ICBC will waive the $30 cancellation fee and $18 re-plating fee for those who choose to cancel their insurance (April 16, 2020)
  • ICBC customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 can defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty.


What child care options do I have?

Child care options for essential workers with young children (not school-aged)

  • The B.C. government's Temporary Emergency Child Care Program for Essential Workers will match parents, who are essential service workers and have children up to age five, with child care in their communities.
  • Essential service workers will be connected to child care spaces by Child Care Resource Referral (CCRR) centres that have been created in 38 communities across B.C.
  • Child care spaces are prioritized for parents working in public health, health services, law enforcement, first responders and emergency response sectors.
  • To apply complete a form that identifies your urgent child care needs. You will be asked: what category of essential worker you are, your child’s age, and in which community you need child care. The application form and matching process are temporary, until the guidelines set by the Provincial Health Officer change.
  • Forms to identify the need for urgent child care must be submitted accessed at 1-888-338-6622 and selecting Option 4 or online.

Child care spaces are prioritized in three tiers. The highest priority is for families employed in Health and Health Services, Social Services, Law Enforcement, First Responders, and Emergency Response. The second priority tier includes families in other Essential Services such as: health care providers, health service providers, support staff and ancillary services within a healthcare, mental health, or addictions treatment setting; Individuals, agencies and organizations that support the delivery of healthcare, mental health or addition services. Most HEU members should fit within Tier 1 & 2.

More information about emergency child care for Essential Workers can be found here.

Child care options for essential workers school-aged children

  • If you have children aged five to 12 years old (K-Grade 6), your local school district and independent school authorities are addressing access to care during regular before-, during- and after-school hours for children of essential workers.
  • Most school districts will have already reached out to parents. If not, contact your local School District or look at their online resources.

Support for families with children and youth with special needs

  • The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is establishing an Emergency Relief Support Fund for children and youth with special needs and their families.
  • The fund will provide a direct payment of $225 per month to eligible families over the next three months (to June 30, 2020).
  • This financial support is intended to help alleviate stress and could be used to purchase supports such as: meal preparation, grocery shopping assistance, homemaking services, caregiver relief support, counselling services (online or phone).

Find more information on the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.

To access child care information in other languages, refer to:

Mental Health Resources

Your mental health and COVID-19

These are unprecedented times, and health care workers may be experiencing more mental and emotional strain as a result. There are things you can do to deal with stress and support your mental health.

  • Reach out. Seek connection.
  • Practice self-care. Do things to prioritize yourself and manage stress.
  • Ask for help.

Below is a list of mental health resources.

Employee Assistance Program

Your employer may provide access to an employee assistance program (EAP) that you can access. EAPs generally offer confidential counselling and online wellness services to you at no cost. You can check with your employer to see whether you have access to an EAP and how you can access it.

BCPA COVID-19 Psychological Support Service

The Psychological Support Service offers psychological first aid telephone calls, free of charge, to any health care or other essential worker (19+) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To access this service visit: www.psychologists.bc.ca/covid-19-resources

310 Mental Health Support

Provides emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health.

310-6789 (no area code needed)

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

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tips for taking care of your emotional health.

COVID-19 hotline
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week
In English only

Toll-Free: 1-800-232-4636

TTY: 888-232-6348

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.

Toll-Free: 1-866-661-3311

TTY:  1-866-872-0113

Senior’s Distress: 604-872-1234

1-800-SUICIDE:  1-800-784-2433


COVID-19 stress management (Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions)

Tips for dealing with COVID19-related stress, anxiety and depression.
View PDF here.

Care for Caregivers (NEW - APRIL 28)

The purpose of this area is to outline guidance for psychosocial planning for health care providers who provide care and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enhanced virtual services will help all British Columbians with mental health needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on adults, youth and frontline healthcare workers.

Virtual Mental Health Supports for Health Care Workers: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/virtual-supports-covid-19#healthcare

Health Care Provider Support: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-professionals/clinical-resources/covid-19-care/health-care-provider-support

Care for Caregivers: https://careforcaregivers.ca/

B.C. Centre for Disease Control, Better health through promotion, protection & prevention: http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/

Rental support with the Temporary Rental Supplement

The Temporary Rental Supplement is available to people with low to moderate incomes. The supplement provides up to $500 a month for the months of April, May, and June.

Learn more at www.bchousing.org/bctrs

Domestic violence resources

EVA - Ending Violence Association of Canada

BWSS - Battered Women's Support Services

Updates and information

Community Social Services member updates

As information for Community Social Services (CSS) members becomes available, it will be posted on the CSS page.

Important sources of information on COVID-19

BC Centre for Disease Control General Information on COVID-19

BC Centre for Disease Control Information for health workers on COVID-19 including: new developments; testing and laboratory guidance; and infection control including guidance on PPE

Public Health Agency of Canada advice for health workers

Public Health Agency of Canada travel advice (see the section for Returning Travellers)

BC Government - Pandemic Preparedness

What are the symptoms of COVID-19, and what do I do if I suspect symptoms in myself or others?

This online tool can help determine whether you may need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

Symptoms of the COVID-19 have included fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. If you have traveled to high-risk areas and develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection, avoid contact with others and contact your doctor or call a health care facility that you are planning to visit with the following information:

  • your symptoms
  • where you have been travelling or living
  • if you had direct contact with animals (for example, at a live animal market)
  • if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing
HEU events and workshops

HEU is taking other steps to combat the spread of the COVID-19, including suspending all in-person union education and events until at least June 30. Joint meetings between the union and employers will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. HEU Locals have also been advised to postpone Local meetings and to cancel or postpone other union events.

If you have registered already for an event or workshop, you will be contacted by the HEU Education Department.

Businesses supporting health care workers

Check out offers here

Other health and safety resources

BC CDC & Office of the Provincial Health Officer

Infection Prevention and Control for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Interim guidance for Long-term Care and Assisted Living Facilities

Fraser Health

Viral Respiratory Illness outbreak protocol and toolkit

Providence Health

COVID-19 Outbreak Information

Vancouver Coastal Health
COVID-19 and Emerging Respiratory Viruses

Long-term Care Toolkit