The B.C. government announced on November 24, 2021, that all employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (the "ESA") will be provided with a minimum of five days of paid sick leave per year beginning on January 1, 2022.
B.C. is the first province to provide paid sick days to employees. In the announcement, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the pandemic has highlighted that it is better for everyone if workers are able to make the responsible decision to take a sick day without losing any pay. The government consulted with employers and employees, looked to workplaces with pre-existing paid sick leave policies, and considered other jurisdictions with paid sick leave laws before implementing its own.
The five paid sick days per year can be taken for any personal illness or injury and need not be taken consecutively. The paid sick leave is in addition to the three days of unpaid sick leave per year that is currently allowed under section 49.1(1) of the ESA. For both the paid and unpaid sick days, employers are entitled to ask for reasonably sufficient proof of illness.
The announced five paid sick days expand on the May 2021 amendments to the ESA that put in place a temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program in B.C. until December 31, 2021, which provided for up to three days of paid leave.
The new paid sick leave entitlements apply to all employees covered by the ESA, including part-time, temporary or casual employees. Self-employed workers or independent contractors, workers in a federally regulated sector, or workers in professions and occupations specifically excluded from the ESA are not eligible for the five paid sick days.
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