B.C.’s paid sick leave will support workers, reimburse businesses

WORKERS will soon have access to a made-in-B.C. paid sick leave program that will support workers to stay home when they are sick during the pandemic and afterward, including permanent paid sick leave, as a result of legislation tabled Tuesday, May 11.

To better support workers during the pandemic, amendments to the Employment Standards Act will bring in three days of paid sick leave related to COVID-19, such as having symptoms, self-isolating and waiting for a test result. Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the Province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day for each worker to cover costs.

“The best way to protect workers, their families and co-workers during this pandemic is to have a paid sick leave program in place,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our made-in-B.C. program will help cover the costs for hard-hit businesses so we can all get through this pandemic together and move to a strong economic recovery.”

The legislation will also create a permanent paid sick leave for workers who cannot work due to any illness or injury beginning January 1, 2022. The number of paid sick days and other supports will be determined following consultations with the business community, labour organizations, Indigenous partners and other stakeholders.

“We are stepping up to create permanent paid sick leave protection for British Columbians as part of our commitment to a better future for workers and workplaces,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We will consult widely and base the long-term entitlement on what we hear, so it meets the needs of workers and supports healthy businesses.”

The short-term paid sick leave related to COVID-19 will bridge the gap for workers between when they first feel sick and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. B.C.’s COVID-19 paid sick leave will continue to protect workers longer – to December 31, 2021.

To support this leave, WorkSafeBC will set up and, beginning next month, administer the employer reimbursement program on behalf of the Province. This will include reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker. For the small percentage of employers that have a highly paid workforce, but do not already have paid sick leave, those employers will be required to cover any remaining wages owed above $200 for each COVID-19 sick day taken.

“Since the outset of this pandemic, B.C. has led the way in supporting workers and making sure they don’t go to work when they’re sick,” Bains said. “As a result of this legislation, if a worker wakes up in the morning and feels unwell, they can stay home in self-isolation and get tested without worrying about losing their income. This is good for workers, good for businesses and good for the economy. It will help avoid workplace transmission and put the pandemic behind us.”

These amendments build on a series of legislative improvements and supports provided by the B.C. government, the Ministry of Labour and WorkSafeBC since the beginning of the pandemic.

Quick Facts:

* An estimated 50% of B.C. employees do not currently have access to paid sick leave. This means upwards of one million workers in B.C. will benefit from receiving these new paid sick leaves.

* The ability to take paid leave will be especially beneficial to many vulnerable and low-wage workers (often women or migrant workers) who lack benefits.

Learn More:

For more information on B.C.’s employment standards, visit:

For more information on federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits, visit:

For information on the COVID-19 paid sick leave, visit: https://gov.bc.ca/covid-paid-leave


Employment Standards Act amendments

Amendments to the Employment Standards Act will put in place two significant improvements to support workers in staying home when sick.

In the short term, workers will have up to three days of paid leave to stay home when sick due to COVID-19. The Ministry of Labour will undertake consultations as part of creating a permanent paid sick leave that will be effective January 1, 2022, for personal illness or injury. Feedback from the consultations will determine the number of paid sick days a permanent program will include and will be announced prior to January 1, 2022.

Highlights are as follows:

Three days of paid COVID-19 sick leave

* This legislation will establish up to three days of paid COVID-19 related sick leave for workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are waiting for test results and need to self-isolate while following the guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control.

* Full- and part-time workers are eligible to take this leave.

* Employers will be required to pay workers their regular wages. Employers can then apply for reimbursement, up to a maximum of $200 per day.

* Any employer that does not currently have paid sick leave benefits, such as small- and medium-sized businesses, will be eligible for reimbursement.

* Under the proposed legislation, when a worker requests to take this leave, an employer could ask for reasonably sufficient proof, although no doctor’s note is required.

* This leave will be effective from the date of royal assent to Dec. 31, 2021.

Administration of temporary COVID-19 sick leave

* WorkSafeBC will administer the reimbursement program for the short-term COVID-19 sick leave on behalf of government with funds provided by government.

* The reimbursement system is expected to be set up using existing IT infrastructure within 30 days. At that point, employers will be asked to register with WorkSafeBC to enable reimbursement.

* This program is not a part of the workers’ compensation system and will not affect WorkSafeBC’s employer premiums or its accident fund.

Permanent paid sick leave

* This paid leave will supplement the existing three days of job-protected personal illness and injury leave brought in last spring, effective January 1, 2022.

* The number of paid days will be determined after consultation.

* The legislation and subsequent regulation will set a minimum standard for a long-term paid personal illness and injury leave, assuring financial support for workers who miss work because they are sick or injured.