Short answer: Yes, businesses can and should require customers (visitors) without exemptions and employees to wear a mask when inside “public indoor spaces.”
On November 24, 2020, British Columbia issued a Public Health Order requiring the use of face coverings (or masks)in all public indoor spaces in the province (the “Order”).
We highly recommend that all business owners and operators read the Order and assess its impact on their business, but a summary is provided below:
Although the Order is directed towards the public (visitors), businesses must follow enhanced health and safety protocols in the form of mandatory COVID-19 Safety Plans to protect workers and customers under the Workers Compensation Act and ensure that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at workplaces is minimized.
WorkSafeBC expects businesses to incorporate the face coverings Order into their COVID-19 Safety Plans, and post signage at their place of business regarding mandatory face coverings and inform their visitors of the requirement. Read more and access sample poster from WorkSafeBC here.
What if a visitor refuses to wear a mask?
A business should be mindful of the exemptions to the mandatory mask policy noted above, especially the characteristics protected by the BC Human Rights Code. If a person claims exemption due to any of the following, a business must accommodate and not require the face covering to avoid violating their human rights:
Businesses should treat those seeking accommodation with dignity, kindness and compassion. Additionally, businesses should inform and educate their employees of their obligations under the Human Rights Code. As the employees will likely be enforcing the mask-wearing, they need to be informed of the potential liability for discrimination.
While the businesses are to accommodate characteristics protected under the BC Human Rights Code, personal preferences are not protected by the same. If someone simply prefers not to wear a mask, an owner/operator can ask them to leave their private business/premises.
We suggest that you have free masks available to provide to customers who would like to visit your business but don’t have access to face coverings.
Note to our Readers: This is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice in relation to a particular matter, please contact our Employment & Labour Group.
By: KSW Lawyears
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