Paid sick leave in British Columbia: your questions answered

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Effective January 1, 2022, British Columbia will grant workers a minimum of five days of paid sick leave, the highest number of any province.

The provincial government says more than one million workers in British Columbia do not have access to paid sick leave at the moment.

But as the wave of excitement – and criticism – around the announcement sets in, many British Columbians have questioned how exactly the legislation works and who it will benefit.

CBC News has set out to answer some of our readers’ most pressing questions. Here is what we learned:

Who is eligible?

At first glance, the answer seems to be clear.

Simply put, the paid sick leave legislation applies to all workers, including part-time employees, who are covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

The law, however, does not cover federally regulated sectors, the self-employed, and employees of occupations and jobs. excluded from ESA.

What about independent contractors?

This is where it gets complicated.

More workers are embracing the gig economy, with popular apps like Uber, Skip the Dishes, and Task Rabbit providing convenient and flexible employment options.

The majority of these apps designate their employees as independent contractors. But that term may not be clear, experts say.

“A lot of gig workers can be covered, but a lot might not be,” said Deputy Minister of Labor Trevor Hughes.

“Just calling someone a temporary worker, or just saying they’re excluded from the employment standards system, doesn’t do anything.”

Deputy Minister of Labor Trevor Hughes said the rules for so-called independent contractors like Uber drivers are obscure, but they may still be entitled to paid sick leave. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated press)

He says it all depends on the relationship between the worker and the employer, and the final decision rests with the Employment Standards Branch.

Hughes says if workers feel they should be considered employees and not independent contractors, they can file a complaint with the branch.

It is therefore possible that those working in the odd-job economy are entitled to paid sick leave.

As the industry continues to grow, Hughes says many provinces and countries need to adapt and update their laws.

What is a federally regulated sector and why is it excluded?

In Canada, some industries with national activities require federal regulation. These include airlines, banks and crown corporations like Canada Post.

Employees in these industries are covered by the Canada Labor Code rather than the BC ESA.

Currently, federally regulated employees can access three days of paid vacation per year.

Who will pay for sick leave?

The financial burden of paid sick leave rests entirely on the shoulders of the employer, says Hughes.

This differs from the province’s current COVID-19 sick leave program, which would reimburse employers up to $ 200 per day.

Hughes says the government realizes this will add costs to an employer’s bottom line.

But he says the alternative, for an employee to arrive at work sick, potentially spreading a virus and for the restaurant to be momentarily forced to close, could put even greater financial pressure on the employer.

How is the payment calculated?

Nowadays, there are several different compensation plans in the workplace. Some employees are paid by the hour, others are paid a salary. And what about commissions?

Hughes says workers will be paid on average what they’ve earned over the past 30 days.

Can I use my sick leave to take care of a loved one?

No.

Hughes says the leave only applies to personal illness and injury.

However, he adds that there are already job protections to support someone in a similar situation.

Will sick notes be required?

Here’s where the legislation once again moves away from black and white and offers a bit of flexibility.

The law states that employers have the right to reasonable proof that an employee is ill.

“But it is unreasonable to insist on a medical note under all circumstances,” says Hughes.

Employers, he said, will need to develop a system that still offers room for flexibility and judgment in the moment.

Can I bank my paid sick leave? Does it continue?

Unlike cell phone minutes, paid time off is not carried over, says Hughes.

A worker is entitled to five paid sick days per year from January 1. Any unused time simply disappears.



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