May 11, 2021

This morning, government announced a new COVID-19 paid sick leave program “that will support workers to stay home when they are sick during the pandemic and afterward, including permanent paid sick leave, as a result of legislation tabled Tuesday, May 11, 2021.”

Amendments 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. 

Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the Province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day for each worker to cover costs. Full and part-time workers are eligible to take this leave.

Under the proposed legislation, when a worker requests to take this leave, an employer could ask for reasonably sufficient proof, although no doctor’s note is required. 

Three days of paid sick leave will be effective from the date of royal assent to December 31, 2021.

The legislation will also create a permanent paid sick leave for workers 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.

Government says the short-term paid sick leave related to COVID-19 will bridge the gap for workers between when they first feel sick and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. BC’s COVID-19 paid sick leave will continue to protect workers longer – to December 31, 2021.

To support this leave, WorkSafeBC will set up and, beginning next month, administer the employer reimbursement program on behalf of the Province. This will include reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker. For the small percentage of employers that have a highly paid workforce, but do not already have paid sick leave, those employers will be required to cover any remaining wages owed above $200 for each COVID-19 sick day taken.

While we appreciate that government is covering the cost of this sick leave in the short-term, we know that cashflow is a significant concern for many of you. To minimize the impact on our hard-hit industry, government needs to ensure the refund process is rapid and seamless. 

We are also deeply concerned about government’s long-term plan to introduce permanent paid sick leave, which will add significant costs to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. Rest assured we will be engaging with government on this issue in the days ahead.

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