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Simplified & Strengthened Paid Sick Leave in British Columbia

When an employee falls sick they have the comfort of knowing they can take the time to recover their health by utilizing sick days. Some provinces have even gone so far as to mandate a set amount of employer-paid sick days, but issues can arise when it comes to tracking this time off.

The government of British Columbia (B.C.) recently faced this problem when they introduced new legislation at the beginning of the year that sought to protect worker’s rights and simplify the administrative load for the employer. Two issues have arisen since employer-paid sick leave was introduced for signing into law.

The first is in regard to the usage of ‘employment year’ instead of ‘calendar year’ in the legislation.  ‘Employment year’ implies that sick days used are to be reset on the anniversary of the employees hire date. The British Columbia government resolved this issue by amending the wording to ‘calendar year’ to standardize the annual entitlement period for all employees regardless of the start date of their employment. The total number of paid sick leave days per year will remain unaffected at five days as stated in the legislation.

In turn, another concern was raised in regard to employees that had already signed an Employment Agreement that outlined different terms and conditions in that the Agreement may conflict with the new law. Questions were raised including whether or not these employees would be covered by the new legislation due to an existing Agreement between employer and employee. To ensure that the governments intent to provide a full five days to recover from illness and injury is applied to ‘all’ employees the clause relating to Employment Agreements, both present and future, is being amended to reflect the new requirements. These changes in British Columbia’s legislation are expected to come into effect upon royal assent before the end of the 2022 legislative session to ensure the paid sick leave entitlement applies to the 2022 calendar year. Employers and employees must continue to work together on any new policies that come into effect so that everyone can continue to grow and succeed as a team.

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