BC’s permanent paid sick leave program, which will be implemented in the new year, will be a minimum of five days long, the province’s Labor minister announced on Wednesday.
Harry Bains gave the update at an afternoon press conference, saying BC is the first province to implement a permanent five-day program. The paid sick leave begins on 1 January and is for workers covered by the Employment Standard Act. More work is being done to support those who are self-employed.
“I am convinced that no worker should choose to work sick or stay home and lose wages,” Bains said. “This announcement means that BC will lead all other provinces.”
In May, BC announced a temporary COVID-19 sickness benefit program offering workers three days’ paid leave for coronavirus-related circumstances. When it was implemented, officials said this would pave the way for a permanent program.
“This has made a big difference for workers who can stay home and get well with peace of mind. For employers who ensure customers and employees are safe, and for our society by reducing the spread of COVID-19, said Bains. “Now we have to look to the future.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during Wednesday’s announcement that when someone gets sick at work, the entire workplace can be affected, especially during the pandemic.
“We know that when someone is forced to go to work when they are sick, jobs are at risk,” she said. “We’ve also seen that where entire workplaces are shut down.”
In the fall, BC opened a public inquiry in which they asked residents for their opinion 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 many sectors face” and that data showed workers on average spent fewer days than that. Officials said about half of BC employees do not have access to paid sick leave right now.
“I want to make it clear that this is not optional,” Bains said. “This is the law starting January 1, 2022.”