Last month, the provincial government announced changes to the Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996 c 210 (the “Act”) entitling workers in B.C. to paid sick leave. All eligible workers covered by the Act will receive five days of paid sick days starting January 1, 2022. These paid days replace the entitlement workers received as a part of the temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program introduced earlier this year in May 2021 which is set to expire at the end of 2021. Moving forward in 2022, workers will be entitled to this paid leave in addition to three days of unpaid sick days.
Eligibility for Paid Sick Leave
Paid sick leave will become a statutory minimum standard as of January 1, 2021 meaning it will apply all workers covered by the Act, including part-time employees. This means that excluded workers, including those from federally regulated sectors, self-employed workers and employees in professions and occupations explicitly excluded from the Act will not receive this benefit.
The only other requirement for a worker to receive paid sick days is that they must have been employed by their employer for 90 calendar days.
Considerations for Employers
Employers should revisit their existing employment contracts and policies to ensure they are in compliance with the new paid sick leave entitlement coming into effect in 2022. It may be the case that contracts fall below the standard, continue to provide more than the new minimum expectation, or that policies are now redundant or produce unintended consequences and should be removed.
One example is a policy which provided three days of paid sick days in addition to the leave provided by the Act with a percentage of unused days to be paid out at the end of any given year. Under the new scheme, employees will be statutorily entitled to a greater amount of paid sick days and those days will not be paid out if unused. Nor do they roll over to subsequent years. This employer was wise to remove their policy regarding paid sick days and move forward simply following the new requirements under the Act.
B.C. is the first province to provide mandatory paid sick days in Canada. As such, documentation on the topic should be reviewed to ensure terms or policies comply with the new statutory requirements and ensure that any other benefit provided by employers continues to be necessary or intended.
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By Sean Marzinzik