B.C.’s paid sick leave will support workers, reimburse businesses

B.C.’s paid sick leave will support workers, reimburse businesses

by ahnationtalk on May 11, 202186 Views

May 11, 2021

VICTORIA – Workers will soon have access to a made-in-B.C. paid sick leave program that will support workers to stay home when they are sick during the pandemic and afterward, including permanent paid sick leave, as a result of legislation tabled Tuesday, May 11, 2021.

To better support workers during the pandemic, amendments to the Employment Standards Act will bring in three days of paid sick leave related to COVID-19, such as having symptoms, self-isolating and waiting for a test result. Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the Province will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day for each worker to cover costs.

“The best way to protect workers, their families and co-workers during this pandemic is to have a paid sick leave program in place,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our made-in-B.C. program will help cover the costs for hard-hit businesses so we can all get through this pandemic together and move to a strong economic recovery.”

The legislation will also create a permanent paid sick leave for workers who cannot work due to any illness or injury beginning Jan. 1, 2022. The number of paid sick days and other supports will be determined following consultations with the business community, labour organizations, Indigenous partners and other stakeholders.

“We are stepping up to create permanent paid sick leave protection for British Columbians as part of our commitment to a better future for workers and workplaces,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We will consult widely and base the long-term entitlement on what we hear, so it meets the needs of workers and supports healthy businesses.”

The short-term paid sick leave related to COVID-19 will bridge the gap for workers between when they first feel sick and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. B.C.’s COVID-19 paid sick leave will continue to protect workers longer – to Dec. 31, 2021.

To support this leave, WorkSafeBC will set up and, beginning next month, administer the employer reimbursement program on behalf of the Province. This will include reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker. For the small percentage of employers that have a highly paid workforce, but do not already have paid sick leave, those employers will be required to cover any remaining wages owed above $200 for each COVID-19 sick day taken.

“Since the outset of this pandemic, B.C. has led the way in supporting workers and making sure they don’t go to work when they’re sick,” Bains said. “As a result of this legislation, if a worker wakes up in the morning and feels unwell, they can stay home in self-isolation and get tested without worrying about losing their income. This is good for workers, good for businesses and good for the economy. It will help avoid workplace transmission and put the pandemic behind us.”

These amendments build on a series of legislative improvements and supports provided by the B.C. government, the Ministry of Labour and WorkSafeBC since the beginning of the pandemic.

Quick Facts:

  • An estimated 50% of B.C. employees do not currently have access to paid sick leave. This means upwards of one million workers in B.C. will benefit from receiving these new paid sick leaves.
  • The ability to take paid leave will be especially beneficial to many vulnerable and low-wage workers (often women or migrant workers) who lack benefits.

Learn More:

For more information on B.C.’s employment standards, visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/employment-standards-advice/employment-standards

For more information on federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits, visit:
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html

For information on the COVID-19 paid sick leave, visit: https://gov.bc.ca/covid-paid-leave

Two backgrounders follow.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Labour
Media Relations
250 508-5030


BACKGROUNDER 1

Employment Standards Act amendments

Amendments to the Employment Standards Act will put in place two significant improvements to support workers in staying home when sick.

In the short term, workers will have up to three days of paid leave to stay home when sick due to COVID-19. The Ministry of Labour will undertake consultations as part of creating a permanent paid sick leave that will be effective Jan. 1, 2022, for personal illness or injury. Feedback from the consultations will determine the number of paid sick days a permanent program will include and will be announced prior to Jan. 1, 2022.

Highlights are as follows:

Three days of paid COVID-19 sick leave

  • This legislation will establish up to three days of paid COVID-19 related sick leave for workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are waiting for test results and need to self-isolate while following the guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control.
  • Full- and part-time workers are eligible to take this leave.
  • Employers will be required to pay workers their regular wages. Employers can then apply for reimbursement, up to a maximum of $200 per day.
  • Any employer that does not currently have paid sick leave benefits, such as small- and medium-sized businesses, will be eligible for reimbursement.
  • Under the proposed legislation, when a worker requests to take this leave, an employer could ask for reasonably sufficient proof, although no doctor’s note is required.
  • This leave will be effective from the date of royal assent to Dec. 31, 2021.

Administration of temporary COVID-19 sick leave

  • WorkSafeBC will administer the reimbursement program for the short-term COVID-19 sick leave on behalf of government with funds provided by government.
  • The reimbursement system is expected to be set up using existing IT infrastructure within 30 days. At that point, employers will be asked to register with WorkSafeBC to enable reimbursement.
  • This program is not a part of the workers’ compensation system and will not affect WorkSafeBC’s employer premiums or its accident fund.

Permanent paid sick leave

  • This paid leave will supplement the existing three days of job-protected personal illness and injury leave brought in last spring, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
  • The number of paid days will be determined after consultation.
  • The legislation and subsequent regulation will set a minimum standard for a long-term paid personal illness and injury leave, assuring financial support for workers who miss work because they are sick or injured.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Labour
Media Relations
250 508-5030


BACKGROUNDER 2

B.C. government supports for workers throughout COVID-19

Ministry of Labour – Employment Standards Act amendments

Paid leave for workers to get their COVID-19 vaccine (April 19, 2021)
Employment Standards Act amendments provide workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine are now in effect, retroactive to April 19, 2021.

Job-protected leave for vaccinations (April 1, 2021)
Before bringing in paid leave for COVID-19 vaccines, the Province made regulatory improvements under the Employment Standards Act to quickly bring in a job-protected, unpaid leave. Part- and full-time workers will be able to take the time they need to receive the vaccine or to take a dependent family member to receive the vaccine.

Government extends temporary layoff period, businesses maintain workforce (May 4, 2020 – present)
In response to the economic impact of COVID-19 and to ease financial hardship on businesses and keep workers connected with their jobs, government first extended the temporary layoff period from 13 to 16 weeks in May 2020. In late June, government extended this period to 24 weeks, expiring in August 2020, to give employers more time to recover before recalling staff.

Both extensions were designed to coincide with the availability of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. In addition, the Ministry of Labour created a simplified online application that allowed employers and workers to jointly apply to extend temporary layoffs beyond August 2020 quickly and easily. Temporary layoffs are currently being used by businesses affected by the pandemic.

Protecting jobs during difficult times (March 23, 2020)
Early on during the pandemic, the Province made two significant changes to the Employment Standards Act to better support workers both during the COVID-19 public health emergency and in the long term.

First, improvements allowed workers to immediately take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19. This means workers who are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for their child or other dependent or whose employer is concerned that the employee may expose others to risk, will be able to take leave without putting their job at risk.

Second, to better support workers on an ongoing basis, the changes also provide up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who cannot work due to illness or injury. This is a permanent change that brought B.C. in line with all other provinces in Canada.

WorkSafeBC

Supporting workers who contract COVID-19 on the job (Aug. 14, 2020)
British Columbia was the first province in Canada to add a presumption for COVID-19 and similar viral infections to the Workers Compensation Act. This is important for workers who are at a higher risk, such as those in the health-care sector. It ensures workers can get care and benefits as quickly as possible, so they can focus on recovering from COVID-19.

Workplace safety inspections and plans (May 15, 2020)
Early in the pandemic, WorkSafeBC created guidelines to help businesses and organizations develop their plans to reopen safely, as the province moved into Phase 2 of recovery. WorkSafeBC has continued this work throughout the pandemic, helping to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces by increasing outreach, investigations and helping workers and employers maintain effective COVID-19 safety plans.

WorkSafeBC has also been assisting the Vancouver and Fraser Health authorities with workplace shutdowns for up to 10 days as directed by health authorities to keep workers safe and contain COVID-19 exposures where there has been an outbreak.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

Support for temporary foreign workers and seasonal workers from other provinces (April 13, 2020 – present)
The Province spent approximately $17 million on accommodations, meals and laundry service for the 4,997 temporary foreign workers who came to B.C. between April 13 and Dec. 31, 2020. It has also allocated $35 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year to continue to support B.C. farmers in safely accessing and accommodating temporary foreign workers. The successful temporary foreign worker 14-day quarantine program demonstrates what can be accomplished by working together with various provincial ministries, industry representatives, migrant support organizations, the federal government and foreign governments.

B.C. worked with local governments and growers in Creston and the Okanagan to secure safe campgrounds and personal protective equipment for seasonal workers from other parts of Canada, while ensuring they were educated in COVID-19 protocols for worker and community safety.

Ministry of Finance

Pandemic pay supports front-line health and social service workers (March 15, 2020)
The Province announced that more than 250,000 eligible front-line workers will receive temporary pandemic pay. This was a lump-sum payment of about $4 per hour for a 16-week period and started on March 15, 2020. Eligible workers received the payment directly through their employer, with no need to apply.

The B.C. government launched the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers on May 1, 2020, which provided a one-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to B.C. residents whose ability to work was affected due to COVID-19. More than 600,000 British Columbians received the full $1,000. The benefit helped British Columbians who had lost their jobs, hours or who had their ability to work curtailed by the sudden closure of the economy.

Ministry of Health

Front-line worker priority to receive COVID-19 vaccines (March 18, 2021)
More than 300,000 front-line workers were prioritized and made eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, as B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan moved forward ahead of schedule. Beginning in April 2021, workers in priority groups identified by public health and the COVID-19 Workplace Task Group started to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca/SII COVISHIELD vaccine. Workers included first responders, grocery store workers, teachers and child care workers.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Labour
Media Relations
250 508-5030

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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