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Paid Sick Leave for BC Workers

Posted:  Dec 21, 2021
At Stevens & Company Law we know that business owners need to make the right choices in order to establish productive and positive work environments. Our team of lawyers and legal professionals has the expertise to help guide you each step of the way as your business grows and evolves.

Paid sick leave will be standard for workers in British Columbia beginning Jan. 1, 2022, with a minimum of five paid sick days each year.

B.C. becomes the first province in Canada to legislate this level of paid time off for workers who fall ill. This new workplace protection applies to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act, including part-time workers.

During a two-month period at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace outbreaks led to nearly 200 businesses being shut down in the Fraser Health region alone. Workplaces with pre-existing paid sick leave policies saw less workplace transmission.

The Province consulted with workers and employers around B.C. to find out what currently exists in the way of paid sick leave and to gather feedback on three options  – three, five or 10 days of paid sick leave – to come into effect in the new year. More than 60,000 people participated in the engagement.

Feedback from the workplaces that already provide paid sick leave found that most workers take between zero and five days of sick leave each year. 

“We have learned in this pandemic how important it is for workers to be able to stay home if they are sick. Paid sick leave is one more way we can support workers and help prevent the transmission of disease,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “It gives people the means to stay away from work if they’re sick and reduces the risk to their co-workers or others they come in contact with through their jobs.” 

The Province looked to other jurisdictions that have mandated paid sick leave, including in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. Their experiences have shown the cost increases for most business were less than expected. They also experienced significant benefits, including increased productivity and retention of trained staff, reduced risks of injury, improved morale and increased labour-force participation.

“A workforce is the greatest asset for a business, and paid sick leave helps maintain healthy, efficient workplaces for all,” said Anita Huberman, president and CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “Not all workers have employers that offer paid sick leave, especially for essential or frontline workers, many of whom are in Surrey. That is why the Surrey Board of Trade supports the five-day option for B.C.”

Sheila Lewis, provincial women’s manager, Métis Nation British Columbia, said: “Paid sick leave will be particularly beneficial to women who are more likely to be balancing work and family responsibilities. Sick leave will help women – especially Indigenous women – reattach to the labour market, providing them more stability and security, while benefiting employers through improved productivity, loyalty and recruitment.”

Quick Facts:
  • More than one million workers in B.C. do not currently have access to paid sick leave, mostly those in low-wage jobs, who are more often women or racialized workers.
  • The paid sick leave protection will apply to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including part-time employees. The ESA does not cover federally regulated sectors, self-employed workers and employees in professions and occupations explicitly excluded from the ESA.
  • In May 2021, amendments to the ESA laid the groundwork for establishing minimum standards for permanent paid sick leave.
  • The May 2021 amendments also created a temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program for up to three days of leave, until Dec. 31, 2021. To support businesses that do not already provide paid sick leave, government is reimbursing employers up to $200-a-day per worker, to help cover their employees’ wages for the COVID-19 paid sick leave.
The world of employment law can be complicated and confusing and you need someone to protect your best interest by looking at your employment issue in a comprehensive and insightful way.

Our experience in supporting both employees and management (the employer) gives us a unique ability to see all the angles of a dispute and has earned us a reputation for creating employment solutions and strategies for difficult cases.

Our first steps are planning and prevention as opposed to reaction because we believe that taking formal legal action should be the last recourse to address disputes in the workplace. The process takes enormous time, energy and expense and can be stressful. This is exactly why we carefully consider each available option and have one goal: what is best for our clients.

For further information on our legal services, including corporate law, estate law, First Nations law and more, contact us today by calling us at 250-248-8220 or emailing us at sam@stevenslaw.ca to arrange your appointment. 

 

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