BC Introduces Three Days of Paid COVID-19-Related Leave
Only weeks after announcing a paid vaccination leave, the BC government has passed another amendment to the Employment Standards Act that will require BC employers to provide employees with three days of COVID-19-related paid leave starting May 20, 2021 through December 31, 2021.
COVID-19-related paid leave is available to employees who:
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting in accordance with a medical health officer order or instruction or the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
- Are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with government orders or guidelines;
- Have been directed by the employer not to work;
- Are providing care to an “eligible person”; or
- Have travelled outside the province and cannot return to BC due to border or travel restrictions.
An employer may request sufficient proof that the employee qualifies, but may not request a note from a medical professional for that purpose.
The amount to be paid for each day of leave is the employee’s average daily wage over the last 30 calendar days preceding the leave. The average daily wage is calculated as the total wages earned (including vacation pay paid during this time but exclusive of overtime), over the 30 days preceding the leave divided by the number of days worked. This is the same formula for calculating statutory holiday pay. For salaried workers, this means they must receive full salary.
Each employee is entitled to up to 3 days of paid COVID leave between May 20 and December 31, 2021.
To assist employers with paying for this new paid leave, the BC government will be reimbursing eligible employers up to $200 per employee for each day of paid leave. WorkSafeBC will be responsible for administering the reimbursement. The program is not part of the workers’ compensation system and will not impact WorkSafeBC’s employer premiums or its accident fund. According to WorkSafeBC, there will be an online application available in June. It is not yet clear whether employers who already offer paid sick leave will be eligible for reimbursement but early indications are they may not be. Similarly, it is unclear if reimbursement will be available if an employee has used up their paid sick time when they take the COVID sick leave.
In addition to the above, the provincial government has amended the personal illness and injury leave section of the ESA to allow the government to mandate pay for a defined number of general sick days starting January 1, 2022 by regulation. The number of mandated general paid sick days will be announced after further consultations with stakeholders.
We would be happy to discuss any questions you may have about this new paid leave.
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See also our previous alert regarding Paid Vaccination Leave in BC: