In May 2021, British Columbia’s provincial government amended the Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) to create a temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program which provided employees with up to three days of leave to be used between May 20 and December 31, 2021.
The May 2021 amendments also laid the groundwork for establishing a permanent paid sick leave program under the ESA commencing in 2022, with the details of that program still to be determined. The impact of COVID-19 highlighted the fact that an estimated 50% of B.C. employees did not have access to paid sick leave, an issue that the government wanted to address going forward in a post-pandemic world.
To that end, between August 5 and September 14, 2021, the government solicited input from workers and employers as to what a paid sick leave program should look like going forward. More than 26,000 surveys on the topic were completed during this time.
Based on the input gathered from these surveys, the government developed an Options Paper which presents several different models for the new paid sick leave entitlement. The options include a minimum of three, five or ten paid sick days that would be available to employees each calendar year. It is expected that these paid sick days would be in addition to the three days of unpaid sick leave already available to employees under the ESA.
Additional Feedback – Online Survey available until October 25, 2021
The government is now seeking additional feedback from both workers and employers on the above options. This feedback can be provided by completing a brief online survey. The survey will remain open until October 25, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. It is expected that the government will announce a final decision on the sick leave program later before the end of the year.
Employers who wish to provide feedback on should take the opportunity to do so by completing the survey. All BC employers should keep a close eye on this developing issue and should plan to review of their current sick leave policies once the details of the permanent ESA sick leave have been finalized. We will post a further update on our website once further details are available.
If you have any questions about this article, please contact your Harris lawyer.