‘Many workers, especially those in lower-paying jobs without benefits, simply can’t afford to lose wages by missing work due to illness or personal injury’
British Columbia is planning to provide workers with access to a permanent paid sick leave option, and it’s looking for feedback.
“One of the most critical lessons from the pandemic was the importance of people staying home when they are sick, to contain the spread of an illness and keep workplaces productive,” says Harry Bains, minister of labour. “But many workers, especially those in lower-paying jobs without benefits, simply can’t afford to lose wages by missing work due to illness or personal injury. That’s why we are creating a permanent paid sick leave entitlement, and we want to hear from the people who will be most affected.”
B.C. has reached out to key stakeholders and Indigenous partners, and is now inviting residents of the province to participate in a public consultation.
During the first phase, the government will gather information from employers and workers on the kinds of paid illness and injury leaves currently provided, and how they are meeting workers’ needs. This will run until Sept. 14, 2021.
Following the initial survey, the government will prepare options for various paid sick leave models, including the numbers of paid days and other supports, that will be open for public feedback. This second phase of the consultation will run from Sept. 20 to Oct. 25, 2021.
This comes shortly after B.C. made it official that full- and part-time employees in the province can take up to three hours of paid leave to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Currently, B.C. is reimbursing employers up to $200 per day for workers who miss out on work and use the temporary paid sick leave program.
“Providing paid sick leave benefits to all B.C. employees will be a significant change for many businesses, especially smaller operations. That’s why I’m encouraging all SBBC’s membership to participate in this consultation process,” says Tom Conway, chief executive officer, Small Business BC (SBBC). “It’s important that government understands how it will affect businesses so the new requirements will be reasonable and practical.”
Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) has been calling for meaningful, permanent paid sick leave for all B.C.’s workers for quite a while, especially during the pandemic, so it is thrilled to see the government move in this direction, says Doug King, executive director.
“We know there are countless stories of workers being required to work sick, and we ask all workers to take a few minutes to complete this survey to help ensure their voices are heard, and that B.C.’s most vulnerable workers get the protections and supports they really need, especially when they are sick or injured.”
The government estimates that 50 per cent of B.C. employees do not have access to paid sick leave, and more than one million workers in B.C. will benefit from receiving these new paid sick leaves.