Victoria, BC—Beginning in 2022, all British Columbia workers will receive a minimum of five paid sick days each year. B.C. will become the first Canadian province to legislate this level of paid time off.
More than one million B.C. workers, most notably those in low-wage jobs, like women or racialized workers, do not currently have access to paid sick leave, according to the report.
“Beginning in the new year, workers will no longer lose pay for making the responsible choice of taking a sick day,” said John Horgan, premier of B.C. The new legislation will fall under the Employment Standards Act.
During the height of the pandemic, where the province saw nearly 200 businesses shut down in the Fraser Health region, the province consulted with workers and employers to get a better feel for what paid sick leave policies were currently available and to gather feedback on three options, three, five or 10 days of paid sick leave.
As a result, 60,000 B.C. workers participated in the consultation, and the feedback showed that in workplaces where paid sick leave is provided, most workers take between zero and five sick days per year.
“Many of the people who lack paid sick leave are the same workers we depended on most during the pandemic,” said Harry Bains, minister of labour. “Lower-wage workers who help us get our groceries, prepare our food at restaurants and make sure we have the services we need deserve a basic protection like paid sick leave.”
In addition to the challenges the pandemic provided, the ongoing labour shortage was also a critical factor in providing additional benefits. Bains added that workers are looking for additional benefits like paid sick leave, adding that this measure will help build a resilient workforce in British Columbia regardless of the challenges faced in the future.
“Paid sick leave will be particularly beneficial to women who are more likely to be balancing work and family responsibilities. Sick leave will help women – especially Indigenous women – reattach to the labour market, providing them more stability and security, while benefiting employers through improved productivity, loyalty and recruitment,” said Sheila Lewis, provincial women’s manager Metis Nation British Columbia.
While the new paid sick leave protection will apply to all workers (full time and part-time) covered by the ESA, it will not cover federally regulated sectors, self-employed workers and employees in professions and occupations explicitly excluded from the ESA.