COVID-19 Update: Essential Services, Duty to Accommodate, and more

Publish date: Friday, March 20, 2020

GLP - Government Licensed Professionals

Dear GLP members,

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

Our primary goal is to protect you. We know that many of you are ready to contribute to the heroic efforts of your fellow public servants in the health sector. As we move forward together, we will keep you as updated as possible. We are having daily conversations with the Public Service Agency.

The Employer’s COVID-19 page on MyHR is home to the current resources for the BC Public Service. Updates will also continue to be posted to @Work and linking through to the MyHR resources.

Essential Workers

Some of you may be deemed essential workers as defined by the Order of the Provincial Health Officer. This is currently being determined at the Ministry level.

Essential workers are people who provide services that are considered critical to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning and who have been determined by the leadership of their organization, on an individual basis, to be critical to delivering these essential services according to the following principles:

  • Preventing new introductions of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, into British Columbia is of paramount importance to limit the spread of the virus.
  • As a baseline, ALL travellers from outside Canada are considered potential carriers of the virus and should self-isolate at home or a similar place in which to stay.
  • To preserve essential services, it is key to consider the risk that a returning worker could pose by endangering the health of multiple other essential service workers, which could jeopardize an organization’s ability to provide essential services.

Health and Safety Responsibilities When Working From Home

WorkSafeBC has provided guidance on employer and worker responsibilities for ensuring their workspace is healthy and safe.

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 - Employee & Family Assistance Services

Employee and Family Assistance Services are offered through Morneau Shepell. Call toll-free 24 hours per day, seven days a week: 1 800 655 5004

Employee and Family Assistance Services (EFAS) includes a range of services provided by the Agency through a contract with Morneau Shepell.
Services include:

These are free, voluntary services available to everyone, including auxiliary employees, co-op students, and employees receiving Short Term Illness and Injury Plan or long term disability benefits. Family members who normally reside with an employee can also access these services.

What are my rights to refuse unsafe work?

We understand that most of you have shifted to working at home while some of you remain in the workplace. This information will apply to members who may be asked to work in an area that they believe to be unsafe.

Under health and safety legislation, employees have the right to refuse unsafe work. This is not specific to potential exposure to COVID-19. 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.

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.

Further information on this process can be found here:

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,

Melissa Moroz
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 47 Issue 1

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

The May to June 2021 issue includes a look into what it's like to work within UVic's Theatre Department.

Read the latest 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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