Paid sick leave
On May 20, 2021 the Employment Standards Amendment Act received Royal Assent. The newly passed legislation immediately provides up to three paid days of COVID-19 related sick-leave to British Columbia employees, and commencing January 1, 2021, will provide for a as yet undetermined amount of paid illness and injury leave (in addition to existing unpaid illness and injury leave) for employees with at least 90 consecutive days of employment.
These latest amendments follow the British Columbia government’s earlier moves to provide for job-protected illness and injury leave and paid leave for vaccination appointments.
Paid COVID-19 sick-leave is intended to “bridge the gap” for both union and non-union employees who require a COVID-19 leave but who do not yet qualify for the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and is another tool to incentivise employees to stay home when ill to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Like unpaid COVID-19 leave, employees do not need to provide a doctors note to be entitled to paid COVID-19 sick-leave.
Under the legislation, employees who are eligible for to up to three days of paid COVID-19 sick-leave, include:
- employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting in accordance with
- instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or
- advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
- employees who are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with
- an order of the provincial health officer,
- an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
- guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
- guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and
- employees who have been directed not to work by their employer due to the employer’s concern about their exposure to others.
Although employers are responsible for paying workers taking COVID-19 sick-leave (calculated in accordance with the legislation), the British Columbia government has announced that it will reimburse employers who do not currently have a sick-leave program up to $200 per day per worker on sick-leave. The employer reimbursement program will be administered by WorkSafeBC through an online application for employers registered for WorkSafeBC coverage. The online application will be available at the beginning of June 2021.
These COVID-19-related benefits are set to expire on December 31, 2021, after which the provincial government will implement a permanent paid illness and injury leave effective January 1, 2022. However, no information has been made available as to the substance of the permanent program, as the government apparently intends to first consult with stakeholders before releasing any details.
Effective June 1, 2021 British Columbia’s minimum wage increased to $15.20 per hour.
Importantly, this minimum wage now also applies to liquor servers (an employee who works mainly as a server of food or drink or both or who regularly serves liquor directly to customers, guests, members, or patrons, or who works in a premises with a liquor license), who had previously been subject to a lower minimum wage.
According to the British Columbia government,
the purpose of abolishing the distinction between liquor servers and other employees was to address the discriminatory effect of the lower minimum wage on women, who make up approximately 80 percent of liquor servers in the province.
June 1, 2021 also saw changes for live-in camp leaders, live-in home support workers and resident caretakers.