The provincial government announced on April 2, that it is taking steps to protect essential service providers such as day care operators from liability due to COVID -19. In this photo, children colour at a child care centre in North Vancouver. (Province of B.C. photo)

COVID-19 liability protection for essential workers

Provincial government taking steps to limit operators from being sued

The provincial government announced on April 2, it is taking steps to protect those who provide essential services by ensuring they cannot be held liable for damages caused by exposure to COVID-19 while continuing to operate.

Kristy Maier owner and director of Little Einsteins Childcare in Prince Rupert, said it never even crossed her mind that someone could sue her if they or their child contracted COVID-19. Her business has remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic as she she offers child care to three different essential service working families.

The need for the provincial government’s order stemmed from a number of essential service business owners who identified challenges with their insurance as a result of the pandemic. The changes the government is implementing are intended to assist with some of those concerns.

Maier said there was not a lot of explanation from her insurance company about the pandemic situation.

“My insurance company got hold of me only to tell me a COVID-19 pandemic was not covered,” Maier said.

The order is conditional as long as essential services operators comply with the orders from the provincial health officer and other authorities.

“For example, a child care provider will not be liable for a child in their care or a family member being exposed to COVID-19, so long as they are following established protocols on how to prevent the spread of the virus, like proper hand-washing, regular cleaning and disinfecting and identifying children who are sick, ” the Ministry of Attorney General (MAG) said in a press release.

If essential service providers are not compliant with respective authorities or are grossly negligent, they will not receive protection under the order and will then be held liable for damages.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s what is considered an essential service in B.C.

Maier is not concerned for herself or her business about the conditions. She said she strictly follows the governmental regulations and protocols for cleaning which takes more than an hour every day to bleach and disinfect surfaces. She has removed toys that require higher cleaning such as stuffed animals, lego, plastic play food and books. At Little Einsteins the children are also hand-washing multiple times a day starting with when they arrive.

More protocols than required to protect her clients and children have been added by Maier with her asking the essential service working parents to adhere to the six foot social distancing rule when picking up and dropping off children.

“The order only applies to situations related to COVID-19 and will remain in effect for as long as the state of emergency remains in place. Additionally, it will continue to protect essential service providers until any relevant limitation periods have expired,” the MAG said.

“As a family child care provider I have insurance, but I would have to close if there was legal action due to a case of COVID-19. It would be detrimental,”Maier said, “It would scare new day care providers into just not opening and we have a shortage in Prince Rupert so liability is a a huge issue.”

The Province, in consultation with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, has defined the essential services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives in the context of COVID-19 response and recovery. This is distinct from essential service designations under the Province’s Labour Relations Code.

READ MORE: COVID-19 essential workers can apply for B.C. pre-school child care

K-J Millar | Journalist
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