Important details on the new paid sick leave

As of January 1, 2022, employers across BC must pay eligible employees up to five sick days per year. This is a permanent amendment to the Employment Standards Act and will apply beyond the end of the pandemic.

Full-time and part-time employees who are provincially regulated – such as restaurants, schools, post secondary schools, retailers, hotels, professional service businesses – and not expressly excluded, are entitled to receive these benefits after 90 days of employment.

Employees are paid an average day’s wage for these sick days. Under the Employment Standards Act, this is calculated as all wages excluding overtime earned in the 30 calendar days prior to the sick leave divided by the number of days worked.

Employees are not required to take all five sick days consecutively, however the paid sick days must be paid first before employees apply their entitled three unpaid days for sickness or illness. If you have employees who are off sick or injured for nine days or more, consult your sick day policy and company benefits program. It is likely an employee is entitled to some accommodation and seeking legal advice is encouraged.

Employers can request reasonable proof of sickness or illness provided it does not burden the employee. Proof, if necessary, can include a request for information regarding the reason for requested days, length of expected time off, a prescription for medication, hospital treatment documents or identification and need not include a doctor’s note. Exceptions may apply and employers are encouraged to use discretion and sound judgement when validating the eligibility and status of an employee’s request. Similarly, repeated or suspicious requests of this nature should be monitored.

To avoid confusion and deter misuse of your sick days, prepare a policy or review your current policy and seek legal advice to bring your policy into compliance. It is also suggested these changes be clearly and broadly communicated to your employees.

If unions with members who fall under the Employment Standards Act have collective agreements that are silent on sick day allocation, the new sick days will be incorporated into their collective agreements and sick time provisions in subsequent collective agreements will need to meet the new entitlements under the Employment Standards Act.

For more details or assistance with updating your policies, please contact Kimberly.

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