New COVID-19 Paid Sick Days Law in British Columbia
Effective immediately, employees in British Columbia are entitled to up to three paid sick days if they are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Before this change, there was no legal requirement for employers to offer paid sick time. Employees are entitled to paid sick leave if:
- the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with an order or medical advice;
- the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with public health guidelines or orders; or
- the employer has directed the employee not to work due to concern about the employee’s exposure to others.
Part-time and full-time employees are entitled to this paid leave between May 20, 2021, and December 31, 2021, regardless of how long they have been employed.
Employers are responsible for paying employees their regular wages for these paid sick days. If employers do not have an existing paid sick leave program, the provincial government will reimburse them up to $200 per employee per day. Reimbursement will be administered by WorkSafe BC and will not impact WorkSafe BC’s employer premiums or its accident fund. Details on the reimbursement program and how to register are expected to be available sometime in June.
This paid sick day law was enacted as a temporary amendment to the Employment Standards Act, 1996 (the “ESA”) and can be found at section 52.121. The three paid sick days are in addition to the three unpaid sick days that are available to employees for COVID-19 related reasons.
COVID-19 Paid Vaccination Leave
British Columbia also recently enacted a paid vaccination leave that entitles employees to up to three hours of paid time off to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This paid leave is retroactive to April 19, 2021. Employees are entitled to an additional three hours of paid time off for a second vaccine dose.
Permanent Paid Sick Days Starting January 1, 2022
Also on May 20, 2021, the ESA was amended to provide BC employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury with permanent paid sick days. This permanent paid sick leave program will start on January 1, 2022. The bill amending the ESA does not state the number of paid sick days that will be available to employees. The government is expected to announce this after consultation with stakeholders.
This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information.
Every situation must be considered on its own facts. Need legal advice? Contact us by phone at 604 535-7063 or email [email protected].