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BC introduces paid sick leave in addition to paid vaccination leave

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Canada Publication May 28, 2021

The BC government has recently enacted amendments to the Employment Standards Act, which provide employees with three additional types of paid leave: (1) paid COVID-19 vaccination leave; (2) temporary COVID-19-related paid sick leave; and (3) permanent paid sick leave.


COVID-19 paid vaccination leave

The key features of the COVID-19 paid vaccination leave are as follows:

  • Employees are entitled up to three consecutive hours for each vaccine dose. 
  • Employees are entitled to the leave regardless of how long they have been employed. 
  • Employers may request that employees provide the employer reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave (for example, proof of a vaccine appointment), but employers must not request a medical note. 
  • There is no requirement for the employee to provide the employer with advance notice. 
  • Employees are entitled to receive their average hourly pay during the leave. 
  • The leave is retroactive to April 19, 2021.

Temporary COVID-19-related paid sick leave

The key features of the COVID-19 paid sick leave are as follows:

  • Employees are entitled to up to three days of paid sick leave if:
    • They are diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting in accordance with guidance from a medical health officer or a medical practitioner;
      • They are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the Provincial Health Officer or guidelines of the BCCDC or Public Health Agency of Canada; or
    • Their employer has directed the employee not to work due to concern about exposure to others.
  • Employees are entitled to the leave from May 20, 2021, until December 31, 2021.
  • Employees are entitled to the leave regardless of how long they have been employed.
  • This leave is in addition to, and not in place of, the unpaid COVID-19-related leave and unpaid sick leave available to employees under the Employment Standards Act.
  • Employees are entitled to receive their average day’s pay during the leave.
  • This leave is deemed to be incorporated into a collective agreement that does not meet or exceed such requirements.
  • The provincial government will reimburse employers without an existing sick leave program up to $200 per day for each worker. The reimbursement program will be administered by WorkSafeBC starting in June 2021. Once launched, employers can apply to WorkSafeBC for reimbursement.

Permanent sick leave

  • Effective January 1, 2022, after 90 consecutive days of employment, employees will be entitled to a paid sick leave for the number of days as prescribed. The government will be consulting with businesses to determine the amount of paid sick days that employees will be eligible to receive.

Takeaways for employers

  • Ensure that any vaccination or sick leave policies are updated to allow employees to take paid time off to get vaccinated during work hours or to take paid leave related to COVID-19.
  • Remember that statutory leaves are not discretionary – if an employee qualifies for and requests COVID-19-related leave, then the employer must grant it.
  • Remember that for COVID-19-related leaves, an employer must not request that employees provide a doctor’s note. To clarify, employees can provide a doctor’s note if they choose to do so, but they are not required to do so, and the employer cannot request one.
  • Keep a written record of all absences, including the length and the reason for the absence, for your records.
  • If you don’t already provide employees with paid sick leave benefits, don’t forget to apply for reimbursement for COVID-19 paid sick leave once the provincial program opens up next month.

Legislation

Bill 13, Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021

Bill 3, Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2021



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