Important Updates regarding COVID-19

If you work in BC's construction industry, please tell us what you're experiencing as a result of the growing Coronavirus pandemic.

BCCA and the Regional Construction Associations can represent and support your business more effectively if you proactively communicate the impacts you’re experiencing.

The construction sector is united in the fight against COVID-19. Read the op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun on May 29, 2020, co-signed by 21 leading industry organizations, including the BCCA.

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BCCA President, Chris Atchison speaks to the importance of worksite safety measures in this March 25, Global News story: "If a worksite isn't safe, it shouldn't be operational. What we're here to say is when and where those worksites can be safe and can comply, we want to support those worksites continuing" 

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BCCA is advocating for the provincial government to introduce deferred property and payroll tax payments, review timelines for public sector construction projects in the event it's possible to accelerate projects in K-12 and post-secondary institutions, and other measures that may help to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on BC's construction industry.  As the #1 employer in BC's goods sector and a contributor of nearly 10% of provincial GDP, the construction sector is essential to the economic health of our province.

At an unprecedented time like this, communicating your situation to us is more important than ever. Please keep us informed to help us advocate on your behalf:

Virtual Hotline

We will be monitoring input throughout each day and have formed a team of industry experts to support us in our response to you and to government: 

  • Canadian Construction Association
  • BC Ministry of Finance
  • Partnerships BC
  • CBRE Ltd
  • Council Of Construction Associations
  • BCCA Employee Benefit Trust
  • WorkSafeBC
  • BC Construction Safety Alliance
  • Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP
  • MNP LLP
  • Pace Communications
  • Jouta Performance Group
  • Wylie-Crump Ltd

Review Q&A's

To help keep you informed in this challenging time, we have created a daily email newsletter that will summarize the latest on COVID-19 related to Construction. Click below to subscribe and ensure you select 'COVID Updates' on the form.

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Read previous editions:


Managing Coronavirus in BC's Construction Industry

Government Action

May 6 - Premier Horgan reveals the first details of "BC's 4-phase Restart Plan". Highlights include:

  • Phase 2 elements will begin rolling out t in mid-May.
  • The government is still looking at the economic imperative of working when sick and is determined to find a way to solve that challenge because there will be "zero tolerance for illness in the workplace"
  • Despite his reference to "ratcheting up" construction, no specific details/announcements were made in regard to that
  • Clean BC was mentioned as being at the "centre of recovery" due to climate change being "the challenge of our time"

More details about this announcement and 4-phased Restart Plan can be read in our Wednesday, May 6 COVID Update, or found on the BC Governments Website.

April 29 - The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau detailing its recommendations for COVID-19 recovery plan principles with respect to the construction industry.

  • CCA also continues to advocate on behalf of its members for an emergency COVID-19 cost relief fund, with eligible costs to be reimbursed up to 5 percent of the contract value as a starting point. If you have not done so already, CCA and its member organizations, including BCCA, urge you to send a letter to your MP today; Our voice is stronger together.

April 29 - Premier Horgan officially announced an extension of BC's State of Emergency for two more weeks.

April 16 - A new support service hub has been launched in BC for small businesses struggling during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The BC Business COVID-19 Support Service will be operated by Small Business BC (SBBC):

  • The BC Business COVID-19 Support Service provides a single point of contact for businesses who are looking for resources available to them during the pandemic.
  • As of April 17, advisors can be reached from Monday through Saturday by phone, email and live chat through Small Business BC's website.
    • Advisors are available Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm (PT) and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm at 1.833.254.4357
    • Inquiries can also be emailed to covid@smallbusinessbc.ca or
    • raised on the live chat feature available on SBBC's dedicated website

April 16 - Premier Horgan announced an official extension of the State of Emergency through April 28. Note that by law, the State of Emergency can only be declared for 2 weeks at a time, and so must be continually renewed.

April 9 - A letter to industry from the honourable Claire Trevena Ministere of Transportation and Infrastructure.

April 3 - The Ontario government updated its list of essential services to include only some parts of its construction industry, read the updated list here.

MNP Tax Alert – April 1, 2020: Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program Details Announced
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau addressed Canadians today to deliver additional information on the newly announced Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. While more details from the government are forthcoming, here’s an update on what was learned today.

March 31 - The BC Centre for Disease Control has published Interim Communicable Disease Control Guidelines for Industrial Camps for use in planning and preparing for COVID-19 in an industrial camp.

MNP Video Blog – March 26, 2020: Property Tax Deferral Update
Find out how governments at all levels are offering property tax deferrals and other measures to non-residential property owners as tenants shut down in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

March 26 - BC GOVERNMENT INVOKES SUPPLY CHAIN AND ENFORCEMENT POWERS

On March 26, Premier Horgan and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced that the provincial government is invoking additional extraordinary powers for the duration of the provincial state of emergency. 

These measures include:

  • Government intervention in supply chain to ensure availability of essential goods and services, using military as needed
  • Prohibiting the resale of essential supplies including PPE and cleaning materials
  • Restricting purchase quantities at retail point of sale
  • Municipal by-law officers are empowered to ensure compliance with Provincial Health Officer order for business closure, social distancing
  • People who ignore public health orders can be jailed or fined upwards of $25,000
  • Municipal states of emergency are now overridden by the provincial orders
  • Local governments must identify public facilities that can be used for public response, including medical care and testing
  • Local governments must respond to any requests from the provincial government to identify resources and critical supply needs

BC GOVERNMENT LIST OF ESSENTIAL SERVICES - INCLUDES CONSTRUCTION

Essential services are those daily services considered essential to preserving life, health, public safety, and basic societal functioning.

The list published by the Province on March 26 includes construction.  The following excerpts should not be considered exhaustive. Please review the list (follow link and scroll to the bottom of the page) to ensure the correct classification of your business:

  • plumbers, electricians, elevator maintenance providers, exterminators, property management services, custodial/janitorial workers, cleaning services, fire safety, and sprinkler systems, building systems maintenance and repair technicians, engineers, mechanics, smelters and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and daily essential operation of residences and commercial buildings; businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of aggregates to support critical infrastructure repairs and emergency response requirements (e.g., sandbags, armour stone barriers, etc.); and
  • construction work, in accordance with PHO direction, construction firms, skilled trades and professionals, and construction and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
  • building code enforcement, inspection of buildings, building sites and building systems by building officials and registered professionals (architects and engineers);
  • services to support and enable transportation, including highway, road, bridge maintenance, and repair;
  • businesses that provide materials and services for the operation, maintenance and safety of transportation systems (road, transit, rail, air, and marine) including delivery of maintenance services, such as clearing snow, response to collisions and completing needed repairs to transportation systems;
  • businesses that support the safe operations of residences, essential businesses and facilities/buildings.
  • businesses that support environmental management/monitoring and spill cleanup and response, including environmental consulting firms, professional engineers and geoscientists, septic haulers, well drillers, pesticides applicators and exterminators, management of industrial sewage/effluent (e.g., for mining operations) and environmental laboratories; and

Any business or service that has not been ordered to close, and is also not identified on the essential service list, may stay open if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the PHO.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE:

  • April 16, The Province of BC is increasing relief for businesses:
    • Further reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties to an average 25% reduction in the total property tax bill for most businesses. (This is in addition to the 50% reduction in the provincial school property tax rate that was originally announced for classes 4,5,6)
    • Late payment penalties will not apply for commercial properties in classes 4,5,6,7,8 until Oct. 1, 2020, to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax without penalty.
  • April 16, The Canadian Emergency Business Account has been adjusted to accommodate businesses that spent between $20,000 and $1.5M in payroll last year (previously it was not available to payrolls less than $50,000.
    • So far the federal government has approved $7.5BN in loans to 195,000 small businesses.
  • April 16, The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which gives $2,000/month for 4 months to workers unemployed due to COVID-19, has been expanded to include seasonal workers, workers who make less than $1,000/month, and workers who have exhausted their EI benefits.
  • March 25, The Federal government introduces the senate approved emergency aid package. The revised package is set at $107BN, up from the originally announced $82BN last week. The COVID-19 Economic Response Plan provides direct support to Canadian workers and businesses. 
  • The Province of BC is providing an additional $5 billion in income supports, tax relief and funding for people, businesses and services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Legislation was passed during an emergency debate. B.C.’s plan builds on the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Please click here for a detailed list of supports for residents and businesses.

Health & Safety Updates

Worker safety is the first priority. Although BC’s provincial health officer has confirmed construction sites are exempt from guidelines on group gatherings and can remain open, anyone who’s sick should not be going to work. Additional health and safety precautions should be put in place and information shared with crews.

Businesses are instructed they should continue to operate if parameters can be put in place to keep workers safe. Here are some guidelines for construction sites. We know this isn't easy:

  • Reduce the number of people on-site to facilitate social distancing of meters between workers.  If needed, adjust schedules or scale back.
  • Wear PPE at all times as long as it is safe to do so - safety goggles, masks, and gloves.
  • Workers should not congregate in break areas and lunchrooms.
  • Workers should not share PPE.
  • Workers should not share tools.
  • Introduce extra handwashing stations.
  • Do not spit on worksites
  • Do not share cigarettes and/or vaping equipment.
  • Do not use sea cans as breakrooms.
  • Do not rideshare/carpool to/from work.
  • Clean out Jobsite trailers daily - arrange for commercial cleaners to clean and disinfect areas of the project.
  • Introduce an on-site COVID-19 committee to create a best practices plan to ensure worker safety.
  • Create a task force focused on supporting your company's staff and customers./li>
  • Make sure workers know about the Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.
  • Make sure workers know they should not come to work if they're feeling sick 

Province of BC resource: Guidance to Construction Sites Operating during COVID-19

WorkSafeBC resource:  

Message From WorkSafeBC Regarding Payment Deferrals on March 26:
"WorkSafeBC is actively monitoring and adjusting to the COVID-19 situation to determine how we can best support stakeholders around the province.

We know employers are facing a number of challenges and uncertainty at this time, so we have decided to allow employers to defer payment of their Q1 2020 premiums by three months. This means employers who report payroll and make payments on a quarterly basis, as well as Personal Optional Protection (POP) coverage holders, can defer payment until June 30, 2020. Employers who report annually will not be impacted because they do not report payroll or pay premiums until March 2021.

Employers who report and pay on a quarterly basis may still find it to their advantage to report their payroll by April 20, even if they defer payment, to ensure their account balance is accurate and clearance is not negatively impacted."

This is a rapidly changing global challenge. Continue to stay informed, remain calm and flexible.

Here are some reliable links for Government resources around COVID-19. Specific employer and industry-related information is below:

Please act responsibly and prioritize your health and the health of your employees and your community.

Important documentation to help educate and inform workers on minimizing the spread of infection.


Contracts & Force Majeure

  • May 19, 2020: Latest updates on Construction Contracts and COVID-19 from Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP.
  • COVID-19 Project Suspension Impact Checklist. This checklist is provided by the Calgary Construction Association to assist contractors in planning for potential closedown of a construction site due to COVID-19.
  • Updated Information on Construction Contracts and COVID-19 from Jenkins Marzban Logan LLP on March 19, 2020.
  • Updated Content: COVID-19 and "Force Majeure" Clause
    • Once Coronavirus and COVID-19 became known, it can be argued that it no longer qualifies as a force majeure event
    • Coronavirus and COVID-19 may disrupt construction supply chains and workforce availability. We asked our contract experts if CCDC2 clauses provide protection for contractors in these circumstances.  Here's the basics:
      • The virus falls under the definition of force majeure in CCDC section 6.5.3.4:
        • "any cause beyond the Contractor's control other than one resulting from a default or breach of Contract by the Contractor"
      • This grants an extension of time only (not money):
        •  the Contract Time shall be extended
          for such reasonable time as the Consultant may recommend in consultation with the Contractor. The extension of time shall not be less than the time lost as the result of the event causing the delay, unless the Contractor agrees to a shorter extension.
        • The Contractor shall not be entitled to payment for costs incurred by such delays unless such delays result from actions by the Owner, Consultant or anyone employed or engaged by them directly or indirectly
      • Time is of the essence:
        • 6.5.4 -notify within 10 days of the delay, or lose the right of delay claim.

Your Workforce

  • MNP Article – April 2, 2020: Strategies to Preserve Your Workforce
    • Your workforce is essential to the survival of your business. While employers strive to contain financial losses, COVID-19 threatens both the health and the employment of valued workers. This article outlines some suggestions for protecting these important resources.
  • Employer information regarding COVID-19, informed by a Dentons webinar:
    • Employers can recommend no travel - An official global travel advisory is in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
    • You have a right to ask employees to self-quarantine after travel.
    • Employer obligations are:
      • Reasonable precautions
      • Communication of hazards
      • Training
    • Reasonable precautions include:
      • Written plan
      • Education on infection prevention (handwashing etc.)
      • Require employees to stay home if sick
      • Require employees to stay home if they have traveled to an affected area
      • Require employees to report the location of travel
      • Post signs to communicate these instructions
      • Regular cleaning
      • Make disinfectants available
      • Engage a third-party medical advisor
    • You are required to report to WCB within 3 days if you think an employee contracted COVID-19 during employment.
      • Employees are entitled to benefits.
      • They cannot pursue a lawsuit if its processed through WCB
      • If in doubt about work-related infection, best to report anyway
      • Also advisable to report to public health unit
         
    • There is a risk of litigation if an employee decides the employer did not keep them safe. This happened after SARS.
    • Privacy obligations remain in place: until a public health emergency is declared. 
      • PIPEDA, BC PIPA permit the collection of employee personal information without consent if it is collected for managing the employment relationship and if the employees are notified in advance that the information will be collected
      • Emergency Consent Exception: 
        • disclosure necessary for medical treatment and consent cannot be given
        • disclosure is in the person's interest and consent cannot be obtained in a timely manner
        • disclosure is to contact next of kin, friend of the sick person
    • There is no official obligation to report illness to government, but you should keep a record.
    • Employees must have reasonable cause to refuse to work. Retaliation is prohibited: try to satisfy workers about their health and safety. 
    • If a public emergency is declared privacy legislation can be overridden, but other rights and protections may still apply
      • if you collect information, have a reasoned basis, provide notice including information about why you are collecting it and how it will be used
      • assure employees it will be protected
      • do not keep it indefinitely. when you don't need it anymore, destroy it
    • Enhanced EI coverage has been announced by government.
    • Access more detailed information about the current federal government aid package.
    • Be attuned to:
      • mental health issues due to fear, financial stress, isolation
      • potential discrimination in the workplace with respect to employees under disability or from certain countries
    • Planning:
      • who in your company should be on a COVID-19 Operations Team?
      • Should you hire a third-party digital medical provider to help decide who should stay home etc.
      • Do you wish to require ALL employees who have a cold or flu to stay home?
      • Will employees be compensated for all or part of any time away whether they are ill, quarantined, or caring for someone else
      • Company travel restrictions
      • Visitors to site or workplace
      • Crisis communications system for personnel
      • Review workplace by function: why can work remotely if needed, which are critical to operations, are there essential public service functions
    • Be cautious at this time if you are considering ending employment
    • The WHO has stated that “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”
    • Create a remote work policy if you don't already have one
      • ensure your remote IT systems can handle the extra activity
      • consider reminding employees of confidentiality clauses about work documents that leave the premises, as well as OHS requirements for themselves when working from home
         

Calls for Site Shutdowns

Many of you are writing to us urging that sites be shut down for two weeks to assess the extent of infection. Just as many are writing urging that sites stay open. All are calling for sites to be well regulated and monitored for appropriate health protocols, and for more clear direction from government that is unique to construction.

We are relaying all this information to government and stakeholder groups and working together to improve order and introduce solutions that prioritize worker safety.

On March 21, the Canadian Construction Association sent a request to the federal government for further action to help the construction industry and information in specific areas that will support our industry and its workers. Please find the release here. We support the CCA’s additional requests.

The BCCA has also added additional suggestions for safety measures employers can take.  It is updated throughout the day as needed: BCCA COVID-19 updates.

We are carefully monitoring actions in other provinces. 


International Operations / Supply Chain

MNP Blog Post – March 31, 2020: Preparing your Real Estate and Construction Business for COVID-19 Business Interruptions
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all levels of Canada’s social and economic landscape, including the real estate and construction sector. To help transition through this evolving crisis, here are some guidelines to help you create strategies, respond quickly and secure business continuity for your company.

MNP Article – March 27, 2020: Strategies to Stretch Your Cash Flow
Demand for your products or services hasn’t ceased; it has shifted. Customers are delaying purchases of certain goods and services in favour of others that are more urgent right now. The first step to adapt to this dramatic shift is to identify potential impacts to cash flow. Then you can take appropriate action to manage potential problems.

March 18 - US/Canada Border has been closed to non-essential traffic, but as of March 18 supply chains, including trucking, will not be affected.

 

This is information only and is not offered and should not be treated as legal advice.