Policy revised 2022/03/11
As part of Step 2 of BC's 2021 Restart Plan, the Labour Relations Board's (the Board's) return to in-person proceedings will be measured, thoughtful, and gradual.
This Policy does not include in-person votes, which are addressed in a separate policy.
It is in the public interest that the Board engage a measured and thoughtful return to in-person proceedings. The safety of the public and the Board's staff remain our primary goal.
Nature of the risk
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can lead to severe illness and death. A person may be asymptomatic but may be infectious. In addition, the risk of person-to-person transmission in an indoor environment increases the closer you come to other people, the more time you spend near them, and the more people you come near.
In Step 2, the risk of transmission from a full re-opening of the Board’s public hearing room space and reception remains high given the characteristics of the physical premises and the services provided.
The characteristics of the physical space include:
- the majority of rooms are small to medium sized
- common areas and reception are small
- hallways are narrow and inhibit directional flow controls
- current hearing room tables are large and heavy so can't be easily moved for reconfiguring the space on an as-needed basis
- surfaces, such as tables, chairs, door handles, bathrooms, copiers, public computer, and kitchenette are high frequency touchpoints, and
- Oxford Properties manages the office tower building environment and have improved fresh air flow, but the hearing rooms and reception are a closed environment with no ability to increase ventilation.
The characteristics of the services provided include:
- a highly variable number of persons attending a proceeding
- the potential for a number of proceedings at one time, including unforeseen expedited matters
- participants move around the space for a range of reasons, including witness exclusion orders, break-outs for mediation, settlement conferences, health breaks, or meetings related to the proceeding
- public drop-ins
- members of the public who may wish to attend a proceeding
- contact duration can be for a full day or more
- often animated, verbal expression, and
- documents regularly change hands
Risk modification, but not elimination, will be achieved in four ways.
- Physical distancing and occupancy limits to reduce the density of people by:
- directional flow signage, including floor decals and posters
- seating markers that establish safe distances between participants
- room occupancy limits:
- total maximum occupancy of limit of 20 people
- reception common area occupancy limit of seven people
- room maximum occupancy limits of:
- large hearing room (2) – ten people
- large caucus room – ten people
- medium conference room – seven people
- medium caucus room (609, 610, 611) – five people
- small caucus room – two people
- small caucus room – one person
- hearing schedule calendar to monitor occupancy levels
- no outside, third-party bookings
- hearing rooms to remain closed to public drop-ins, subject to appointment
- Engineering controls, including:
- plexiglass cover for openings in reception booth
- an indication of whether masks are required by a Provincial Health Office order or directive
- remove public computer terminal
- reconfigured furniture in rooms to maintain occupancy limit and social distancing
- hand sanitizer stations and sanitizing wipes
- Administrative controls such as the rules and guidelines set out in this Policy and the Illness policy for members of the public.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hand sanitizer or gloves are the responsibility of each Party as set out in the Illness Policy for members of the public.
Policy rules and guidelines
Virtual proceedings remain the default
Virtual proceedings will continue to be the Board’s default way to conduct a proceeding as it is the only available means of eliminating the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Requesting an in-person proceeding
On its own motion, or at the written request of a party, the Board may consider conducting an in-person proceeding where it can be done safely and in accordance with this Policy.
A party requesting an in-person proceeding must provide particulars as to why an in-person proceeding is warranted in the circumstances and provide a written plan identifying the measures it will put in place to ensure the process is safe for all participants and is in accordance with this Policy.
A party representative or a single litigant (the Party) must provide a Plan that includes the following:
- the Party, and all participants attending with that Party, have read, understood, and will comply with this Policy and the Illness Policy for members of the public
- as a result of changing or unforeseen circumstances, the in-person proceeding may be cancelled or adjourned at any time
- a breach of this Policy or the Illness Policy for members of the public will result in the immediate suspension of the process, to be resumed at a mutually convenient date or as ordered by the Board
- list of the names and contact information for the participants the Party proposes will attend in-person
- confirmation that any documents on which the party intends to rely or refer will be circulated electronically in advance of the hearing or on a date to be determined by the Board
- confirmation that each participant will have, or be supplied with, a laptop or similar device to review and/or send electronic documents, including for witnesses and, where that device is to be shared, that appropriate disinfecting can be done prior to providing it to another person
During the Proceeding
Each participant must:
- confirm that they have read and understand the Illness Policy for members of the public and confirm that they are not experiencing any symptoms, even if mild, that would prohibit their participation as set out in the Illness Policy for members of the public
- wash their hands using appropriate cleaning practices in the washrooms located in the elevator lobby area prior to entering the Board’s premises
- maintain a minimum two metre distance between all people
- exchange documents electronically
- respect occupancy limits
- follow directional signage and, in areas where persons may be moving in two directions, participants must step aside and let another person pass before proceeding down a narrow hallway
- comply with all Board and building signage, including a maximum occupancy for elevators
- bring a sufficient supply of sanitizing wipes to wipe down surfaces at the close of the day in all rooms occupied by participants
- place all waste and garbage in the receptacles provided
- comply with any other requirements the Board may identify
Off-Site In-Person Proceedings
This Policy applies to any request by a Party that the Board conduct an in-person proceeding at a location other than at the Board’s premises in Vancouver.
The Plan submitted in support of such a request must comply with this Policy, as well as include the following additional information:
- a measured floor plan of the off-site location
- a copy of the existing safety protocols in place at the off-site location, including but not limited to:
- illness policies for individuals in that location
- maximum occupancy limits for the rooms proposed for the in-person proceeding
- availability of first aid attendants
- location and availability of sanitizing gel stations, disinfecting wipes, washrooms, and building cleaning schedules
- existence of signage, including directional flow and social distancing
- any other information requested by the Board representative