BC requires five days of paid sick leave for all employees

BC officials on Wednesday announced plans for a permanent sick leave program after nearly two years of living with COVID-19 drew attention to the lack of support for workers.

From 2022, all employees covered by the Labor Standards Act are entitled to five days of employer-paid sick leave.

“Everyone attaches great importance to safe workplaces. Employers don’t want employees to work sick,” Labor Secretary Harry Bains said during a press conference on Wednesday. “BC will lead all other provinces. It is a step that will help our economy recover faster.”

He made the announcement along with provincial health official Dr. Bonnie Henry, adding that about half of the workforce in BC currently does not have access to paid sick leave.

“Workers without coverage are usually the most vulnerable in our society. They have low paying jobs and often women and racialized people,” Bains says. “These are the people who can least afford to stay at home and lose their pay when they are sick.”

The new paid sick leave program will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

Henry said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how important it is for workers to be able to stay at home without losing a day’s wages. During a two-month period at the height of the pandemic, outbreaks of COVID-19 led to 200 shutdowns in the Fraser health region alone.

“This new approach will protect workers everywhere by breaking transfer chains that we know can happen when people are together,” she said.

Wednesday’s announcement follows COVID-19 specific illness time introduced in May, allowing employees who show symptoms, self-isolate or wait for a test result to take up to three days of paid leave. That program ends on December 31.

During the government analysis of that program, Bains reported that 98% of employers surveyed reported no abuse of the program.

The newly mandated sick days are not available to self-employed workers or outside the Labor Standards Act, such as Uber and Lyft drivers.

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