B.C.’s Paid Sick Leave will Support Employees and Reimburse Businesses

British Columbia employees may soon have access to a paid sick leave program.

Currently, an estimated 50% of employees in British Columbia do not have access to paid sick leave, meaning that upwards of one million employees in British Columbia will benefit from receiving these new paid sick leaves.

The proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act will include three days of paid sick leave related to COVID-19, for those that have symptoms, are self-isolating or are waiting for test results. Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the Province will reimburse employers that currently do not have an existing sick leave program in place up to $200 per day for each employee to cover costs. Full-time and part-time employees are eligible to take this leave. Under the proposed legislation, employers may request employees to provide reasonably sufficient proof pertaining to the requested leave, although a doctor’s note is not required.

The legislation will also establish a permanent paid sick leave for employees 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.

The short-term paid sick leave related to COVID-19 is intended to bridge the gap for employees between when they first feel sick and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. British Columbia’s COVID-19 paid sick leave is anticipated to protect workers until December 31, 2021.

Beginning in June, WorkSafeBC will set up and administer the employer reimbursement program on behalf of the Province, which is expected to be set up within 30 days. Employers will be asked to register with WorkSafeBC for the program reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker. For those employers whose employees earn greater than $200 per day, but do not have paid sick leave programs in place, will be required to cover any remaining wages owed above $200 for each COVID-19 sick day taken.

MLT Aikins will continue to monitor the situation. Employers considering how the British Columbia paid sick leave program applies to their business should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Vancouver.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.