Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Implemented in British Columbia

British Columbia employees are entitled to five paid days and three unpaid days of sick leave as of January 1, 2022. This new leave – referred to in the British Columbia Employment Standards Act as “Injury and Illness Leave” – applies to all eligible employees in British Columbia, including part-time, casual and seasonal employees.

To be eligible for the new leave, employees must be employed for at least 90 days and not otherwise excluded from the operation of the Employment Standards Act. A day of paid sick leave is calculated by adding all wages earned during the previous thirty days of employment and dividing that number by the number of days worked. Employees are not entitled to partial sick days.

The new sick leave provision applies to both unionized and non-unionized workplaces. The new provision automatically applies to collective agreements that do not currently provide for paid sick leave or provide for less than what is required by the Employment Standards Act.

Employers must also remember that sick leave protections may extend beyond the five days in the Employment Standards Act. For example, the British Columbia Human Rights Code prohibits employers from discriminating against employees by reason of, amongst other things, physical and mental disability. Employees who exhaust their injury or illness leave pursuant to the Employment Standards Act may still have additional job protections pursuant to the Human Rights Code.

The amendment to the Employment Standards Act follows the decision of other governments to increase paid sick leave entitlements, including the federal government which recently passed a bill to provide federally regulated employees with ten days of paid sick leave per year. The federal government has also announced that it intends to convene the provinces and territories in early 2022 to develop a national action plan to legislate paid sick leave for all workers across the country, notwithstanding that employment standards laws are mostly provincial jurisdiction. It remains to be seen whether the British Columbia government will make further increases to sick leave entitlement.

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