On May 11, 2021, the British Columbia Government introduced legislation to amend the B.C. Employment Standards Act to give employees paid leave in the event they need to be away from work due to COVID-19: Bill 13 – 2021: Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021.
If Bill 13 passes, the new COVID-19-related paid leave provision will entitle employees to take up to three days of paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19, including if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, waiting for COVID-19 test results, self-isolating, following a public health order or are directed to stay home from work by their employer because of exposure risks. Employers will be required to pay employees their regular wages while they are away from work on this paid COVID-19-related leave.
This legislation is intended to support employees who do not have access to paid sick leave benefits through their employer and are unable to work due to COVID-19. It is expected to help bridge the gap until they can access the federal Recovery Sickness Benefit. This legislation is also intended to encourage employees to stay home from work when they feel sick, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within workplaces.
The provincial government will reimburse employers who do not have a paid sick leave program up to a maximum of $200 a day per employee, to help cover the costs of the new COVID-19-related paid leave. This reimbursement program will be administered through WorksafeBC beginning in June 2021. The government has confirmed that the reimbursement program is not part of the workers’ compensation system and will have no impact on employers’ WorksafeBC premiums. Additional details on this reimbursement program are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
If passed, the COVID-19-related paid leave will remain in effect until December 31, 2021. However, Bill 13 also introduces a new permanent paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work due to any illness or injury, which is expected to take effect on January 1, 2022.
Currently B.C.’s Employment Standards Act provides employees (after 90 consecutive days of employment) with up to 3 days of unpaid leave per year for personal illness or injury. Bill 13 proposes an amendment to this type of leave that will provide employees with:
- paid leave for up to the number of days prescribed, and
- unpaid leave for up to 3 days.
The number of days for paid leave has not yet been prescribed. The BC Government has announced that it will set this number and other details after consultation with the business community, labour organizations, Indigenous partners and other stakeholders.
We will monitor developments relating to this legislation and will provide future updates as they arise.