April 16, 2021

Dear ABLE BC Members and Industry Colleagues,

Here’s what you’ll find inside today’s update:

  • Follow-up update: indoor dining ban likely to be extended
  • Now open: applications for Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant
  • Liquor server minimum wage increasing on June 1, 2021
  • WorkSafeBC given new workplace closure powers to help stop COVID-19 transmission
  • Info session on BC Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant: recording now available
  • Join us at the next monthly Q&A with ABLE BC: April 29
  • BC Government asking for feedback on pandemic response in new survey
  • Reminder: PST now applies to retail sales of soda beverages
  • Extra Drivers License ID Checking Guides Available
  • How is COVID impacting your business? Complete the BC Chamber of Commerce Pulse Check Survey
  • Job protected leave for COVID-19 vaccine
  • Coalition of BC Businesses raises concerns about job protected leave for vaccinations
  • Immigration webinar on May 5
  • New B SAFE training for BC’s tourism and hospitality industry
  • Provincial state of emergency extended

Find all past COVID-19 updates here.

Follow-up update: indoor dining ban likely to be extended

On April 13, we sent out an update advising it’s highly likely that the current ban on indoor dining will be extended at least until after the May long weekend.

While government has still not announced anything publicly, ABLE BC, BCRFA, and Restaurants Canada met with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Brian Emerson and heard this information directly from them.

We understand extending the ban on indoor dining is incredibly frustrating and we don’t have all the details yet. We’ll get them for you as soon as possible, but in the meantime ABLE BC wanted to ensure you have as much notice as possible so you can plan.

Since sending out our update, we’ve received many emails from industry about the inherent unfairness of penalizing our sector once again.

As you well know, our industry has done everything possible to have the right protocols in place to keep staff and customers safe. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been the only province in Canada to keep indoor dining open. But according to Dr. Henry, the new COVID variants are significantly more transmissible and her data suggests indoor dining is no longer safe at this time.

To be clear though, Dr. Henry has repeatedly said that this isn’t the fault of the hospitality industry. It has more to do with the social networks of customers and staff, who inadvertently bring the virus in with them.

The only good news is that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Henry has said that by June there will be enough vaccine in BC to vaccinate everyone. She anticipates that by June, we’ll be in a very different place and able to relax many public health protocols by then. We just need to make it through to then.

Regional orders: we’ve also received questions about Dr. Henry applying public orders to a specific region, versus the whole province. ABLE BC has raised this issue with government. While government has acknowledged the ‘story’ of the virus is not the same around the province, they are seeing increased cases province-wide and not looking at regional orders at this time. 

We know this order comes with catastrophic financial consequences for our industry. ABLE BC has already opened conversations with government about the need for additional financial support for our industry caused by this extended ban. The recently announced Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grants of up to $10,000 were based on the projected need for the ‘Circuit Breaker’ public orders set to expire on April 19. We know they they are inadequate to support members for the duration of this extended ban.

We will offer more details as soon as they are available. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact info@ablebc.ca.

Now open: applications for Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant

Eligible bars, pubs, restaurants, breweries, wineries, gyms, and fitness centres can apply for the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant to help support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more and apply.

Note: this is a separate application process from the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant.

The grant will provide affected businesses with one-time funding to help with expenses like rent, insurance, employee wages, maintenance, and utilities. It can also help cover unexpected costs, such as the purchase of perishable goods, that resulted from COVID-19 restrictions. 

Businesses affected by the March 30, 2021, provincial health orders will be eligible to receive between $1,000 and $10,000 in grant funding.

The Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant is open to eligible businesses of any size that have been in operation since February 1, 2021. Application information and eligibility criteria are available here: www.gov.bc.ca/business-relief

Applications will remain open until June 4, 2021, or until the grant funds are disbursed.

Liquor server minimum wage increasing on June 1, 2021

On June 1, 2021, the liquor server minimum wage ($13.95 an hour) will be replaced with the general minimum wage of $15.20 an hour. This move delivers on a government commitment made in 2018 to bring an end to the alternative liquor server minimum wage in BC.

June 2021 also marks reaching the goal of a $15.20 an hour minimum wage through regular, measured, and predictable increases, which was recommended by the Fair Wages Commission in 2018.

ABLE BC knows this is the wrong time to be raising costs for businesses and we have communicated this to government. While ABLE BC and our industry partners have done everything we could to stop the replacement of the liquor server minimum wage, the Minster of Labour does not want to change course.

Future increases to the minimum wage, starting in 2022, will be based on the rate of inflation to provide predictability going forward.

WorkSafeBC given new workplace closure powers to help stop COVID-19 transmission

On April 8, Dr. Henry announced an “expedited workplace closure order” delegating specific powers to WorkSafeBC prevention officers, under the Public Health Act.

The new powers permit WorkSafeBC prevention officers to serve a closure order on a business where three or more employees have contracted COVID-19 and it’s determined that transmission is occurring at the workplace.

This new order took effect on April 12. When a closure order is served, it will remain in effect for a period of 10 days, or longer, as prescribed by the health authority’s medical health officer. In the case of complex workplaces (e.g. those with multiple sites), the closure may be restricted to those parts of the workplace where transmission has occurred.

A list of all workplaces that have been closed and the data of their reopening will be made available to the public, via the health authority websites. In all cases, additional outbreak control measures, including contact tracing and immunization, will continue under the direction of public health.

Additionally, WorkSafeBC prevention officers will engage employers in a discussion about their COVID-19 safety plan, advising them that they must review and make improvements to the safety plan. Once the workplace has reopened, the prevention officer will conduct an inspection to review the updated safety plan and to ensure the employer is effectively implementing measures to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

go2HR has offered some tips on what employers need to do now:

  • Review your existing COVID-19 safety plan carefully to make sure that it is robust, effective, and in compliance with all the current orders and guidelines. Sign and date your latest safety plan to show when you last reviewed it.
  • Check the adequacy of your COVID-19 policies and procedures, particularly your company’s sick leave policy.
  • Make sure that daily health checks are being completed by all workers, and others entering the workplace (e.g. contractors) without exception.
  • Remind workers to monitor themselves daily and to always stay home if they have symptoms.
  • Take appropriate action if any workers are displaying potential symptoms consistent with COVID-19 when at the workplace.
  • Make every effort to provide work from home options. 
  • Confirm that your current safety plan is posted in the workplace and on your website and that it is being followed by everyone. 
  • Encourage your workers to ask questions and provide feedback on the effectiveness of your safety plan.
  • Be prepared for an inspection from a WorkSafeBC prevention officer in the event that workers contract COVID-19.

Get your COVID-19 safety plan reviewed by go2HR’s team of health and safety experts. To register for this complimentary safety plan review service, click here.

Info session on BC Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant: recording now available

On April 13, ABLE BC and our industry partners hosted an info session on the BC Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant.

We were joined by Elizabeth Vickery (Executive Director, Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant Program) who went over the application process and answered your questions about the grant.

Watch the info session recording here. Download the presentation slides here.

Links referenced during the meeting:

Join us at the next monthly Q&A with ABLE BC: April 29

ABLE BC members and industry colleagues are invited to join us at our next monthly Q&A with Executive Director Jeff Guignard: Thursday, April 29 at 10:00 am PT.

RSVP: danielle@ablebc.ca. A Zoom link will be provided once you RSVP.

What to expect during this one-hour meeting:

  • Catch up on anything you’ve missed over the last month
  • Hear directly from our Executive Director about the state of BC’s liquor industry
  • Get an update on our advocacy work and progress
  • Ask questions about liquor policy, regulations, public health orders, and government relations
  • We’ll also be joined by members of ABLE BC’s Board of Directors

BC Government asking for feedback on pandemic response in new survey

British Columbia has launched another COVID-19 pandemic response survey and is asking its residents to give their feedback.

The survey, titled SPEAK 2, is asking British Columbians to share their experiences over the past 12 months, how the ongoing pandemic has affected them and their families, any existing barriers around vaccinations, as well as what they need for recovery.

The province’s first survey, Your story, our future, launched more than a year ago and received over 400,000 responses. The initial round of surveys raised concerns around the wellbeing of children, as well as the effect that reduced social connections were having on people.

The survey opened last week and will be available for approximately four weeks. The BCCDC says it should take between 15 to 20 minutes to complete and is available in 10 languages, including English, French, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Punjabi, Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, Korean, and American Sign Language.

Data collected through the survey will follow strict privacy practices and will be confidentially maintained.

Reminder: PST now applies to retail sales of soda beverages

Effective April 1, 2021, soda beverages no longer qualify for the exemption for food products for human consumption. PST now applies to all retail sales of soda beverages at a rate of 7%.

If you sell soda beverages and are not already registered as a PST collector, you must register to collect and remit PST. Ensure your point of sale systems are updated to charge PST on soda beverages effective April 1, 2021.

This notice explains how PST applies to soda beverages and the steps you must take to prepare to collect and remit PST.

Extra Drivers License ID Checking Guides Available

Did you miss placing an order for 2021 North American or 2022 International Drivers License ID Checking Guides?

We have limited extra copies of both guides available at the ABLE BC office. If you would like to place an order, please contact danielle@ablebc.ca.

2021 prices:

  • North American Guide Book: $21 per book
  • International Guide Book: $46.50 per book
  • Please note these prices do not include shipping and handling

For more information about the guides, please click here.

How is COVID impacting your business? Complete the BC Chamber of Commerce Pulse Check Survey

We are at a critical stage in the pandemic. With a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, new provincial health orders announced, and the vaccination program well under way, the BC Chamber of Commerce is launching their next COVID-19 ‘Pulse Check’ Survey to understand how your business continues to be impacted during this critical time.

Government is listening. Have your voice heard and complete the survey before April 20, 2021 at 5:00 pm PT.

This information will inform the Chamber’s discussions with government and help secure the critical supports that your business needs.

Take the survey here. It will take approximately 8 minutes to complete.

Job protected leave for COVID-19 vaccine

As Phase 3 of the vaccination program continues to move forward, the province of BC has mandated that employers offer time off to workers to gain access to this critical health measure. Full and part-time workers must be able to take the time they need to receive the vaccine. This provision also applies if a worker needs to take a dependent family member. 

A new online booking system was unveiled by the province last week where you can register online 24 hours a day. You can also register by phone or at a BC service office.

Coalition of BC Businesses raises concerns about job protected leave for vaccinations

Following a meeting last week with Labour Minister Harry Bains, the Coalition of BC Businesses (of which ABLE BC is a member) sent a letter to the Minister reiterating concerns about mandatory paid leave for employees to receive vaccinations.

The Coalition emphasized that employers in all sectors are dedicated to encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, and noted it is critical to the future of our economy that we reach a level of vaccination that allows us to restore operations and return to some measure of normalcy.

The Coalition also acknowledged that many workers are reluctant to take unpaid time to get vaccinated. However, the Coalition expressed a number of concerns about mandatory paid leave for vaccinations:

  • Many sectors, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries, have face significant hardship and loss of revenue. Many businesses are only able to continue operations due to the ongoing support of the federal and provincial governments. By adding new costs, government would demonstrate a lack of understanding or concern about how serious the situation is.
  • Many of these industries have the flexibility to adjust schedules to the degree that employees can be given adequate time to get a vaccination, without having to reduce hours or otherwise miss paid time.
  • Many employers already eligible for vaccination have used a variety of ways to encourage their employees to get the vaccination. Some have provided paid time off, while others have chosen other ways to encourage vaccination. This flexibility is important to allow employers to work with their employees to secure the best possible outcome.

Read the full letter to Minister Bains.

Immigration webinar on May 5

Bewildered by the complexities of immigration processes for hiring foreign workers in the age of COVID-19? 

Join the Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism Region, managed by Destination BC, and go2HR for an informative session on Navigating the New Normal When Hiring International Workers in the age of COVID-19: May 5, 2021 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. 

Learn more and sign-up.

New B SAFE training for BC’s tourism and hospitality industry

B SAFE is a new 90-minute, online course oriented toward staff in BC’s tourism and hospitality industry. The training aims to provide staff with a strong foundation in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and to assist them in understanding ever-evolving best practices. 

Upon successful completion of the course, participants are awarded a certificate that demonstrates their knowledge of and commitment to COVID-19 health and safety. go2HR’s objective is for B SAFE to become an industry standard: a recognizable indicator of the extent to which health and safety is a priority for BC’s tourism and hospitality employers. 

B SAFE stands for BC Safety Assured For Everyone 

Supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, B SAFE aims to build community and staff confidence in the health and safety protocols of BC’s tourism and hospitality industry as the province navigates and emerges from the COVID-19 era. Pre-register today!

Provincial state of emergency extended

The Province of British Columbia has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on April 27, 2021, to allow staff to take the necessary actions to keep British Columbians safe and manage immediate concerns and COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Province continues, with the support of police and other enforcement officials, to use measures under the EPA to limit the spread of COVID-19, including issuing tickets for owners, operators and event organizers who host an event or gathering contravening the PHO’s orders.

Read more.

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