B.C.’s permanent paid sick leave program, which is being implemented in the new year, will be a minimum of five days long, the province’s labour minister announced Wednesday.
Harry Bains gave the update in an afternoon news conference, saying B.C. is the first province to implement a permanent, five-day program. The paid sick leave will begin Jan. 1 and is for workers covered by the Employment Standards Act. More work is being done to support those who are self-employed.
“I firmly believe that no worker should have to choose to work sick or stay home and lose wages,” Bains said. “This announcement means B.C. will lead all other provinces.”
In May, B.C. announced a temporary COVID-19 sick pay program, offering workers three days of paid leave for circumstances related to the coronavirus. When that was implemented, officials said this would pave the way for a permanent program.
“This has made a big difference to workers who can stay home and get healthy with peace of mind. To employers who are ensuring that customers and employees are safe, and to our community by reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Bains said. “Now we must look to the future.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during Wednesday’s announcement that when someone goes to work sick, the entire workplace can be impacted, especially during the pandemic.
“We know that when someone is forced to go to work when they are ill, the workplaces are at risk,” she said. “We have seen that too, where whole workplaces are shut down.”
In the fall, B.C. opened a public survey asking residents for their thought on the plan. Three options were presented: three, five and 10 days of employer-paid sick leave.
Bains said five days was “a sustainable solution given the challenges faced by many sectors” and that data showed, on average, workers used fewer days than that. Officials said about half of B.C. employees don’t have access to paid sick leave right now.
“I want to make it clear that this is not optional,” Bains. “This is the law starting Jan. 1, 2022.”
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