As COVID-19 case numbers rise to unprecedented levels, the BC Government continues to implement new provisions in response to the ongoing pandemic.
Early in the pandemic the BC government amended the Employment Standards Act to provide employees with unpaid “COVID-19 Leave” (see our discussion of those amendments here). Effective April 1, 2021, the Employment Standards Regulation was amended to expand the circumstances in which COVID-19 Leave may apply.
As BC moves towards phase three of the province’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan, employees are now entitled to an unpaid job-protected leave in the following circumstances:
- To be vaccinated against COVID-19;
- To attend to the vaccination of an eligible person prescribed under the Regulation (discussed below); and
- To attend to the vaccination of a person who is unable, because of illness, dis ability or another reason, to obtain the necessities of life, and who is under the day-to-day care and control of the employee.
The April 1 amendments also provided job-protected COVID-19 leave for employees who are found by a medical health officer, medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse to be more susceptible to COVID-19 as a result of an underlying condition, treatment, or another illness. However, such employees are only eligible for job-protected COVID-19 Leave if the employee receives or will receive the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit under the Canada Recovery Benefits Act for any leave taken.
Finally, tracking eligibility for the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, the April 1 amendments expanded the classes of “eligible persons” with respect to whose care an employee may take COVID-19 Leave to include:
- A member of the employee’s immediate family and any of their spouses;
- The step-sibling of an employee and that person’s spouse;
- An aunt or uncle of the employee and that person’s spouse;
- A niece or nephew of the employee and that person’s spouse;
- A current or former foster parent;
- A current or former foster child and that person’s spouse;
- A current or former ward;
- A former guardian and the spouse of the employee’s current or former guardian;
- The step-parent of the employee’s spouse;
- A sibling or step-sibling of the employee’s spouse
- A grandparent or grandchild of the employee’s spouse
- An aunt or uncle of the employee’s spouse
- A niece or nephew of the employee’s spouse
- A current or former foster parent of the employee’s spouse;
- A current or former ward of the employee’s spouse; and
- Any person who requires care that employee considers to be, or person who considers the employee to be, like a close relative regardless of any relation by blood, adoption, marriage, or common law partnership.
As case-counts continue to surge and BC moves towards vaccination of the general population, employers must stay abreast of the provincial response. Importantly, unpaid leave to support COVID-19 vaccination may not be the end of the story as the provincial government is currently exploring the possibility of paid vaccination leave in the future.
We will continue to monitor and provide updates as soon as they become available. The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving with new measures being adopted or modified at both the federal and provincial level.