Paid Leave Now the Law in B.C.

On May 20, 2021, Bill 13 – the  Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021 (“Bill 13”) received Royal Assent and is now law.

Bill 13 temporarily amends the Employment Standards Act  (the “Act”)and requires employers 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 are 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 next month.

Employees who are entitled to paid COVID-19-related leave 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 will 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, if a collective agreement contains provisions that apply to employees who qualify for paid COVID-19-related leave (e.g. a sick leave provision), and those provisions meet or exceed this new entitlement, those provisions would apply instead.

Notably, these amendments are set to be repealed on December 31, 2021, meaning that entitlement to paid COVID-19-related leave will cease at that time unless the Act  is further amended by the NDP provincial government.

Paid Personal Illness and Injury Leave

Bill 13 has also created a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for employees who cannot work due to an illness or injury. However, this amendment does not come into effect until January 1, 2022, and the prescribed number of sick days has not yet been set by the Province.

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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