COVID-19 sick pay: B.C. giving all workers up to 3 days of leave
VANCOUVER -- Workers in B.C. will soon be able to take three days of paid time off if they're sick during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to new legislation tabled Tuesday.
The paid sick leave is available for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, who is self-isolating because of COVID-19 or who is waiting for a test result. Employers will be required to pay workers their full wages and the province will reimburse employers who don't currently have a sick-leave program up to $200 per day to cover those costs.
WorkSafeBC will administer that reimbursement on behalf of the province and the program will be in place until the end of the calendar year.
The province says the COVID-related sick pay program is meant to "bridge the gap" for workers between when they first feel sick and when they can access the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
"Unfortunately the federal program has been difficult to access for workers," Premier John Horgan said. "No one should have to make that difficult choice between staying home when they're sick or going into work because they have an economic imperative to do so."
The federal benefit only kicks in when an employee works less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work week. The benefit gives $500 for a one-week period, and individuals must apply for renewal each week for a maximum of four weeks.
People who have already applied for the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, short-term disability or EI aren't eligible for the federal program.
Horgan said of the $2.6 billion set aside by the federal government for its program, only about $400 million has been distributed so far.
"That doesn't speak to the lack of need for the program, that speaks to inadequacy of the construction of that program," he said. "As long as we have COVID-19 in our communities, we want to make sure that workers, businesses and communities are safe."
Early on in the pandemic, widespread outbreaks in food processing facilities were blamed on workers facing financial pressure to come in sick because they wouldn't be paid to stay home.
Since then, there have been countless instances of COVID-19 transmission in workplaces. More than 100 businesses in the Lower Mainland have been forced to temporarily close since the beginning of April because of on-site transmission that infected three or more people – though the government has not provided any details about how many of those incidents may have started because someone went to work while symptomatic.
After the pandemic, the legislation will create a permanent paid sick leave option for workers who can't work because of any illness or injury, starting on Jan. 1, 2022. The number of paid sick days under that program will be determined after consultation with the business community, labour organizations and Indigenous partners.
"Paid sick leave is good for businesses, it's good for workers and it's good for communities," Horgan said. "Together, it will help us come out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than we went in."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel and Bhinder Sajan