Late on March 23, 2020, the BC government introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act, creating two new unpaid statutory leaves:
Employees meeting the following criteria are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence:
- Employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and acting in accordance with advice from a medical health officer, or a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
- Employees in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act, or the guidelines imposed by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;
- Where an employer has directed an employee not to work due to concerns of exposure to others;
- Employees providing care to their child, or other persons (over the age of 19) unable to obtain the necessities of life for whom the employee is a parent or former guardian; or
- Employees outside of the province and unable to return due to travel or border restrictions.
The length of the COVID-19 protected leave will be for so long as the circumstance which causes the need for the leave exists.
Employers are also prohibited from requiring medical notes associated with these circumstances, although other forms of proof may be requested.
Notably, these changes are retroactive to January 27, 2020. If employees have been terminated for any of the reasons prescribed, they are entitled to be re-employed and the period of their absence will be deemed a statutory leave.
The new leave period does not prevent employers from laying off employees for business-related reasons, including loss of business related to COVID-19 or business closures/shutdowns.
Illness or Injury Leave
Employees are entitled to three days of unpaid statutory leave where they are suffering from personal illness or injury. If requested by an employer, the employee must provide reasonably sufficient proof of their personal illness or injury. This amendment and new leave is not specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will continue to update our clients with information as soon 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 a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.