B.C. Introduces COVID-19-related Paid Leave

An update to this article can be found here

On May 11, 2021, the Province introduced Bill 13 – 2021: Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021 (“Bill 13”). When passed, Bill 13 will temporarily amend the Employment Standards Act such that employers will be obligated to provide paid COVID-19-related leave to eligible employees, for up to a maximum of three days, if the employee qualifies for the leave due to:

  • the employee being diagnosed with COVID-19 and acting in accordance with instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
  • the employee being in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the Provincial Health Officer, an order under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Agency of Canada; or
  • the employer, due to its concern about the employee’s exposure to others, directing the employee not to work.

Employers would be required to pay employees their full wages during the leave, calculated by multiplying the period of the employee’s leave and average day’s pay (which itself is calculated using the employee’s average day’s pay for the prior 30 calendar days). However, the Province has indicated it intends, through WorkSafeBC, to reimburse employers who do not have an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day. Further details on reimbursement and how to register for it are expected from the Province in June.

Employees who are entitled to paid COVID-19-related leave would also continue to be entitled to unpaid leave following the period of paid leave, so long as the circumstances for which they have become entitled to the leave apply (e.g. the employee continues to be subjected to a mandatory period of quarantine). 

An employee would not be entitled to paid COVID-19-related leave if they are entitled to the leave as a result of providing care to an eligible person, being outside the Province and unable to return due to travel or border restrictions, or for any other prescribed reason. However, note that employees in these latter three situations would remain entitled to unpaid COVID-19-related leave.

For unionized employers, where collective agreement provisions respecting paid sick leave meet or exceed this new entitlement, those provisions would apply instead.

Bill 13 indicates these amendments would be repealed on December 31, 2021.

Paid Personal Illness and Injury Leave

Bill 13 also introduces language that, when passed, will create a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for employees who cannot work due to an illness or injury. The number of sick days will be set following consultation with stakeholders, including the business community. Currently, the changes are not anticipated to take effect until January 1, 2022. 

A copy of Bill 13 is available here, and the Province’s original news release on this topic is available here.

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, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.

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