5 Days of Annual Paid Sick Leave Coming to B.C. Workplaces

Labour Minister Harry Bains has announced B.C. will institute a new, permanent paid sick leave program, effective January 1, 2022.

This new entitlement will result in all employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) being eligible for 5 days of paid personal illness or injury leave per year.  This new sick leave entitlement is the most currently offered by any government in Canada, although the Federal government is expected to introduce a 10 day entitlement shortly, for federally regulated workplaces. 

Currently, the British Columbia ESA provides employees covered by the legislation with an entitlement to 3 unpaid personal illness or injury days a year.  The newly announced 5 day paid leave entitlement will be in addition to the existing 3 day unpaid leave entitlement and will entitle eligible employees to a total of 8 personal illness or injury leave days in each year of employment (5 paid, 3 unpaid).      

To qualify for this new paid leave, employees must only be employed for 90 days.  Employers are permitted to ask an employee for sufficient proof of illness or injury, which an employee must provide as soon as practicable.   

For unionized employers, the new leave entitlements will not apply where a collective agreement contains provisions with respect to paid personal illness or injury leave which, when considered together, meet or exceed an employee’s leave entitlements under the ESA.  

If a collective agreement currently provides 3 paid sick days already, the new entitlement likely means an employer must provide 2 additional paid sick days, to bring the total up to the minimum 5 paid sick day standard.

The 3 day paid COVID-19 leave that has been available under the ESA since May 2021 (and in some circumstances funded by the government) ends on December 31, 2021, when the new 5 day paid leave becomes effective.

Employers will be entirely responsible for the cost of this new paid “sick leave” benefit.  This will add a significant new cost for many employers, particularly as the new entitlement is available to all employees whom have been employed for at least 90 days (including part-time, temporary, and casual employees).        

We expect further details on the program will be announced before the January 1, 2022 implementation, and we will provide further updates as information becomes available.

We will continue to update our clients with information as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.

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