B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)

B.C. seeks more input on paid sick leave in COVID-19 pandemic

Temporary three-day leave expires at end of 2021

B.C.’s temporary sick pay program that reimburses businesses for up to three days of paid employee leave runs out at the end of the year, and the province is working on a permanent plan that could pay up to 10 days.

Labour Minister Harry Bains has received 26,000 survey responses from employees and employers in the first round of consultation that began in August, and has released an options paper for further comments until Oct. 24. The three options are three, five and 10 days of paid sick leave.

The temporary program allows reimbursement of up to $200 per day for employers who do not offer sick pay, which the ministry says represents about half of B.C. employees. Many are low-wage workers from immigrant communities, and 60 per cent of employers do not have sick pay for any of their workers, the ministry estimates.

Responses to the survey indicate that many people without access to paid sick leave reported “regularly going to work sick or returning to work before fully recovering,” as businesses struggle to keep operating in the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry said in a statement Sept. 21.

“No one should have to choose between going to work sick or losing wages,” Bains said. “We’re asking for input on the next step toward making paid sick leave a permanent reality in B.C.”

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B.C. Federation of Labour president Laird Cronk urged the province to adopt its plan, which sees workers start with three days of sick pay at the start of the year and up to seven days more depending on hours worked.

“Right now, the lack of paid sick leave is putting strain on the health care system and amplifying inequalities between workers,” Cronk said.

Coronavirus