On 30 March 2022, the British Columbia government passed new amendments to the paid sick leave provisions:
- Made sick leave available to employees in each calendar year instead of the employment year (marked by the employee’s anniversary date). This amendment simplifies the administration process of the new paid sick leave entitlement for British Columbia employers.
- Removed a provision that allowed the provisions of a collective agreement to replace the entitlement to paid sick leave. This amendment ensures that all employees, regardless of whether they are governed by a collective agreement that has alternative sick leave provisions, are entitled to the five days of paid sick leave.
The government of British Columbia (BC) passed new legislation providing employees with up to five days of employer-paid sick leave.
The new legislation, which is amending BC’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), entered into effect on 1 January 2022.
As a result of the global health pandemic, BC’s government realized the necessity of introducing a paid sick leave scheme to ensure employees comply with public health guidelines by self-isolating without the risk of losing their jobs.
The new employer-paid sick leave is not available to:
- Employees in federally regulated sectors
- Self-employed workers and independent contractors
- Employees in professions or occupations excluded from the BC’s ESA (such as doctors, lawyers, architects, insurance agents, chartered accountants, realtors, etc).
The new legislation applies to employees covered by BC’s ESA, whether they are full-time, part-time, temporary or casual employees. Sick leave is not prorated for any category. After 90 days of service with an employer, employees covered under BC’s ESA are eligible for the five days of employer-paid sick leave. As a result, eligible employees in BC are now entitled to a total of eight days of sick leave – the new employer-paid sick leave plus the three days of unpaid sick leave to which they are already entitled.
The new sick leave may be taken on consecutive days or not. Leave is available to employees in each calendar year (no longer per employment year). Leave may not be carried over from employment year to employment year.
Leave pay represents the total amount paid to the employee during the 30 days prior to the leave divided by the number of days worked or earned wages within that 30-day period.
Employers may request proof of the employee’s illness or injury justifying their entitlement to the new paid sick leave.
Employers should amend their leave policies accordingly, specifically clarifying whether the paid sick leaves under those policies include the paid sick leave required by the BC’s ESA. Given the current circumstances and the nationwide call for paid sick leave, other Canadian provinces may implement similar amendments to their legislation.