*This blog was updated on May 31, 2022.
Workers in British Columbia can now stay home when sick without having to worry about losing their pay.
Effective January 1, 2022, all BC employees covered by the BC Employment Standards Act (ESA) are entitled to a minimum of five paid sick leave days per year if they need to stay home due to an illness or injury.
This five-day paid sick leave entitlement is in addition to the existing provision for three days of unpaid sick leave under the BC Employment Standards Act. This means BC employees are entitled to eight days of job-protected sick leave, five days of which are paid.
This permanent paid sick leave has been added as an amendment to Section 49.1 of the ESA. It is under Section 49.1 that the existing entitlement to three days of unpaid sick leave for illness or injury per year is provided to eligible workers.
Who does the paid sick leave apply to?
The BC employment standards sick days are available to all employees covered by the ESA who have been employed by their employer for at least 90 days. This includes part-time, temporary, and casual workers.
However, employees in federally regulated workplaces, self-employed workers or independent contractors and employees in professions excluded from the ESA do not qualify for BC employment standards sick days.
What about the COVID-19 paid sick leave program?
The COVID-19 paid sick leave program, which provided for up to three days of paid leave for COVID-19 related reasons, ended on December 31, 2021. It was set up through a temporary amendment to the ESA to support businesses that did not already offer paid leave to staff. The BC government reimbursed employers up to $200 per day per sick employee. But if workers made more than $200 per day, the employer was required to pay the difference.
Do employers have to compensate for this five-day paid sick leave?
Yes. Unlike the temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave program, the permanent paid sick leave is completely funded by employers.
Do employees have to provide a doctor’s note to avail of the paid sick leave?
Yes. The employer is allowed to ask for reasonable proof of illness or injury for which the leave is being availed.
Can an employee use paid or unpaid sick days to care for a sick family member?
No. BC employment standards sick days can only be used for personal illness or injury. The BC Employment Standards Act provides for other leaves (such as the family responsibility leave) that an employee can avail to care for sick family members.
Can unused paid sick leave be carried over into the next year?
No. Your employees only get five paid sick days per calendar year. A calendar year is a period of 12 consecutive months starting January 1. Employees who begin employment half way through the calendar year would also be entitled to the five paid days and three unpaid days of sick leave.
Do employers have to pay out outstanding sick days at the end of employment?
No. Unused BC employment standards sick days are not paid out when the employee resigns or is terminated.
Do the sick days have to be taken consecutively?
No. Your employees can take the five paid sick days and the three unpaid sick days as needed over the course of a calendar year.
Can I ask my employee to use the three unpaid sick days first?
No. Employers cannot decide how employees will use the BC employment standards sick days. It is up to the employee.
Can my employee ask for sick days in half day increments?
No. Under the BC Employment Standards Act, any time taken off work for sickness – even an hour – would qualify as one full day of sick leave. There is no provision for partial sick days. As per the ESA, employees can avail of five sick days to be paid based on an “average day’s pay”.
However, employers are free to offer greater benefits than the minimum standards set in the ESA. So, employers can create a company sick leave policy that allows staff to take half a day’s sick leave. But employers cannot offer fewer sick days than the minimum set in the BC ESA, which is five paid and three unpaid sick days.
How is a day of paid sick leave calculated?
When an employee qualifies for paid sick leave, they must be paid at least an average day’s pay for each day of leave taken. An average day’s wage can be calculated by dividing the total wages by the number of days worked in a pay period.
What other things must BC employers keep in mind?
BC employers covered by the ESA are required to provide their eligible staff with up to five days of job-protected paid sick leave per year from January 1, 2022. Employers affected by this change must update their employment contracts and sick leave policies, if they haven’t done so already.
Do you need more information on BC employment standards sick days?
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