Amendments to British Columbia Employment Standards to Allow Unpaid COVID-19-Related Leave

On March 23, 2020, the government of British Columbia announced Bill 16-2020: Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2020 which will result in changes to the Employment Standards Act to allow unpaid leaves for employees while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.

These changes include the following:

  • Allowing 3 days of unpaid leave each year for personal illness or injury, if employed for 90 consecutive days with an employer;
  • Making a COVID-19-related unpaid leave available to employees, if they are: diagnosed with COVID-19 and acting under the advice of a medical professional; in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with provincial or federal requirements; directed not to work due to risk of exposure; providing care to a child or disabled dependent; or unable to return to British Columbia due to travel restrictions;
  • COVID-19-related unpaid leave is permitted to continue for as long as the circumstances which entitle the employee to access the leave persist;
  • COVID-19-related unpaid leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, such that any employee terminated due to circumstances that make one eligible for the unpaid leave on or after January 27, but before the amendments came into force, must be offered re-employment in the same or a comparable position. If an employee is re-employed, the absence following the termination is deemed to have been an unpaid leave;
  • If requested by an employer, employees are obligated to provide the employer with reasonably sufficient proof as to why they are entitled to the COVID-19 leave, but are not required to provide a note from a medical professional.

Further guidance is expected in the coming days and updates will be provided as more information is made available.