5 paid sick days coming to workers in BC January 1, 2022

On November 24, 2021, B.C. became the first province in Canada to legislate a minimum of 5 paid sick days for all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including part-time, temporary or casual workers. This action is in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted that when workers don’t have paid sick leave, it’s bad for them, it’s bad for their co-workers and it’s bad for their employers. Beginning in the new year, workers will no longer lose pay for making the responsible choice of taking a sick day,” said Premier John Horgan.

The legislation comes into effect on January 1, 2022. Although its primary aim is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, paid sick leave is available for workers who need to stay at home because they are sick or injured.

Quick facts:

The paid sick leave protection applies to workers covered by the Employment Standards Act, including part-time, temporary, or casual workers.

    • Employees will be paid their regular wages for these days.
    • Employee’s sick days do not have to be taken consecutively.
    • Employers may request reasonably sufficient proof of illness.
    • The paid sick leave entitlement is in addition to the 3 days of unpaid sick leave currently provided by the ESA.

The paid sick leave protection does not apply to:

    • Federally-regulated sectors
    • Self-employed workers or independent contractors
    • Employees in professions and occupations excluded from the ESA

A temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program for up to three days of leave remains in effect until Dec. 31, 2021.

    • Businesses without a paid sick leave program can apply to government for reimbursement of up to $200-a-day per worker, to help cover their employees’ wages for the COVID-19 paid sick leave.
    • Apply for reimbursement here.

Two-phase consultation process – Here’s how we got to 5 paid sick days

From August 5 to September 14, 2021, more than 26,000 online surveys (available in English, Chinese, Punjabi, Korean and Tagalog) were completed by employers and workers in BC. The survey helped to determine the paid sick leave programs currently available in workplaces as well as what respondents would like to see as a province-wide minimum standard. The survey found that among those workplaces already providing paid sick leave employees took between zero and five days each year.

Using the data from the survey phase, an Options Paper was made available for public comment from September 22 to October 25, 2021, which presented new paid sick leave entitlements of three, five or ten days.

What’s next?

Our benefits consulting team is in discussion with our clients and insurance partners to determine the impact this legislation will have on insured wage loss benefit plans, if any.