Your rights during COVID-19: Right to Refuse and Duty to Accommodate

Publish date: Friday, March 20, 2020

UVic - University of Victoria Administrative and Academic Professionals


Dear UVic PEA members,

These are challenging times. Situations with employers are changing daily and we want to reiterate to you that our staff are available to you if you experience challenges in your workplace.

Following is some information on issues relating to member safety.

What are my rights to refuse unsafe work?

Under health and safety legislation, employees have the right to refuse unsafe work as long as it is based on a reasonable belief. This is not specific to potential exposure to COVID-19.

The right to refuse unsafe work is fact-specific. If a member believes that it is unsafe for them to work, they must immediately report that to their supervisor or employer. The report is then investigated by the supervisor or employer, at which point the unsafe work condition is either remedied or the employer can advise that they disagree that the work is unsafe.

If the member continues to refuse to work, a second level of investigation commences and the investigation team will include a safety representative or a worker who is selected by the union. If this second investigation doesn't resolve the matter a WorkSafe Officer must be notified and must investigate the matter without undue delay and issue any orders deemed necessary.

A member who makes a work refusal is expected to have reasonable cause to believe that the work at issue puts themself or someone else at risk.

Further information on this process can be found here:

Recommended PEA Member Procedure For Refusing Unsafe Work:

  • Report the unsafe work condition to your supervisor
  • Your supervisor must immediately investigate and ensure that any unsafe condition is remedied without delay
    • Your supervisor must inform you if they consider the reported unsafe condition to be safe.
    • If you still believe the work is unsafe and decline to carry out the work assigned please contact your PEA Labour Relations Officer to move this process forward.

Duty to Accommodate

If the risk of COVID-19 has a particular impact on certain members based on their membership in a protected group under the Human Rights Code (such as if a member is immunocompromised, is elderly, is pregnant or possibly if they are in a caregiving relationship with someone who is at high risk) a duty to accommodate may arise.

In this circumstance, a member should consider requesting an accommodation that limits their risk of acquiring the illness. Please connect with a Labour Relations Officer if you are in this situation.

Mental Health

Most members have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Please consider using these services during these difficult times.

PEA Office Closure Extended

The PEA’s Victoria office will remain closed until at least March 29. Staff will continue to work from home and will remain available to our members via email and phone. You can find PEA staff contact information on our website at

Thank you,

Sam Montgomery
Labour Relations Officer

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 46 Issue 1

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The August-September 2020 issue includes a look into Animal Care Services at UVic.

Read the September-Ocotober 2020 issue



The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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