Workers across the province will soon have access to paid sick leave to support staying at home while ill with legislation being tabled on Tuesday.
Businesses will also receive support from the Provincial Government to help cover the costs of having an employee stay home. Employers will be required to cover a worker’s full wage, and the Province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 a day per sick employee to cover costs.
Amendments made 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.
“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.”
If passed, the legislation will also pave the way for permanent paid sick leave for workers who cannot work due to illness or injury, starting on January 1, 2022. B.C. said the exact number of paid sick days and other supports will be determined following consultation with businesses, 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.”
According to the B.C. Government, the proposed short-term paid sick leave related to COVID-19 will help bridge a gap between when workers first feel ill and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
If passed, the proposed legislation is expected to protect workers until December 31, 2021.
To support this leave, the Province said WorkSafeBC will set up and administer the employer reimbursement program. For employers with a high-paid workforce, but do not already have paid sick leave, they will have to cover any remaining wages 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.”