BRITISH Columbians are invited to provide input into the development of made-in-B.C. permanent paid sick leave to support workers and protect workplaces.
“One of the most critical lessons from the pandemic was the importance of people staying home when they are sick, to contain the spread of an illness and keep workplaces productive,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, on Thursday. “But many workers, especially those in lower-paying jobs without benefits, simply can’t afford to lose wages by missing work due to illness or personal injury. That’s why we are creating a permanent paid sick leave entitlement, and we want to hear from the people who will be most affected.”
In addition to outreach to key stakeholders and Indigenous partners, a public consultation process is now open and can be accessed through government’s engagement site.
There will be two phases of consultation:
* Phase 1 (August 5 to September 14) – surveys will gather information from employers and workers on the kinds of paid illness and injury leaves currently provided, and how they are meeting workers’ needs; and
* Phase 2 (September 20 to October 25) – informed by the surveys, options will be prepared for various paid sick leave models, including the numbers of paid days and other supports, and will be posted for public feedback and input.
“No one should have to choose between going to work sick or losing wages,” Bains said. “Paid sick leave is good for businesses, good for workers and good for our communities. By supporting people and businesses, we will help B.C.’s economy recover faster.”
In May 2021, amendments to the Employment Standards Act laid the groundwork for establishing minimum standards for a permanent paid sick leave entitlement. Following the public engagement process, paid sick leave will be established through a regulation, and come into effect on January 1, 2022.
Tom Conway, Chief Executive Officer, Small Business BC (SBBC), said: “Providing paid sick leave benefits to all B.C. employees will be a significant change for many businesses, especially smaller operations. That’s why I’m encouraging all SBBC’s membership to participate in this consultation process. It’s important that government understands how it will affect businesses so the new requirements will be reasonable and practical.”
Doug King, Executive Director, Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS), said: “TAPS has been calling for meaningful permanent paid sick leave for all B.C.’s workers for quite a while, especially during the pandemic, so we are thrilled to see the government move in this direction. We know there are countless stories of workers being required to work sick, and we ask all workers to take a few minutes to complete this survey to help ensure their voices are heard, and that B.C.’s most vulnerable workers get the protections and supports they really need, especially when they are sick or injured.”
* The May 2021 amendments to the Employment Standards Act created a temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program for up to three days of leave until December 31, 2021. To support businesses struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, government is reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker, to help cover those wages.
* An estimated 50% of B.C. employees do not have access to paid sick leave. This means more than one million workers in B.C. will benefit from receiving these new paid sick leaves.
* Many vulnerable and low-wage workers – who are often women or migrant workers – lack benefits, so the ability to take paid leave will be especially beneficial to them.
To participate in the consultation process, visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/