POSTED MARCH 31, 2022
Amendments to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act will strengthen paid sick leave legislation to protect workers and simplify the administrative process for businesses.
Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, introduced changes to address two issues that have been raised since the five days of employer-paid sick leave came into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
In the first case, business groups expressed concern that using “employment year” instead of “calendar year” to establish an employee’s annual paid sick leave entitlement is cumbersome because it requires a separate date for each employee based on the start date of their employment.
For ease of implementation, the act is being amended to reference “calendar year,” which standardizes the annual entitlement period for all employees regardless of the start of their employment. The total number of paid sick leave days per year will not be affected. It remains at five.
In the second case, there were concerns that some employees were excluded from the full five paid sick days due to existing language in collective agreements. To ensure government’s intent that the paid sick leave entitlement is applied to all employees in B.C., the clause that relates to collective agreements is being amended.
(Editor’s Note: Section 3 of the amended Employment Standards Act says a collective agreement has to meet or exceed the requirement for 5 days of paid illness leave in order for the collective agreement to trump the Employment Standards Act. If it doesn’t, the Act would apply.)
After an extensive public consultation process, B.C. became the first province in Canada to implement a minimum standard of five days of paid sick leave every year. Research and experience in other jurisdictions has shown that most workers do not take their full entitlement of the sick days. It has also been shown that cost increases for most companies were less than expected while significant benefits resulted, including increased productivity and retention of trained staff, reduced risks of injury, improved morale and increased labour force participation.
The changes will be effective upon Royal Assent, which is expected before the end of the current legislative session, to ensure the paid sick leave entitlement applies to the 2022 calendar year.
- Prior to Jan. 1, 2022, more than one million workers in B.C. did not have access to paid sick leave, mostly those in low-wage jobs who are more often women or racialized workers.
- The paid sick leave protection applies to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act, including part-time employees.
- The act does not cover federally regulated sectors, self-employed workers and employees in professions and occupations explicitly excluded from the act.