The British Columbia government released details of a permanent paid sick leave program.
All workers in B.C. will be eligible for five days of sick pay as of Jan. 1, the province announced Wednesday. Businesses will be legally required to provide the days to their employees.
“Beginning in the new year, workers will no longer lose pay for making the responsible choice of taking a sick day,” Premier John Horgan said.
“The pandemic has highlighted that when workers don’t have paid sick leave, it’s bad for them, it’s bad for their coworkers and it’s bad for their employers.”
In May, the province gave all workers up to three days of paid sick leave to support those affected by COVID-19 until Dec. 31.
BC Federation of Labour rallies for 10 days paid sick leave
At the time, Labour Minister Harry Bains said the number of sick days under a permanent program would be determined through consultation.
The BC Federation of Labour advocated for 10 days of leave, arguing that other OECD countries like Australia, New Zealand and Sweden meet that bar or surpass it.
Horgan’s government settled on five days after assessing the impacts of the province’s temporary three-day program.
About half of B.C. employees do not have access to paid sick leave.
During a two-month period at the height of the pandemic, workplace outbreaks led to nearly 200 businesses being shut down in the Fraser Health region alone.
An evaluation of the temporary program, which allowed for sick says for any COVID-19 symptom, found that most workers did not need additional sick days on top of what was already provided.
How much paid sick leave should be offered in B.C.? Residents can weigh in until Monday
A survey also found 98 per cent of businesses felt that workers did not abuse the paid sick leave program.
The push for 10 days of paid sick leave
Feedback from the workplaces that already provide paid sick leave found that most workers take between zero and five days of sick leave each year.
“Many of the people who lack paid sick leave are the same workers we depended on most during the pandemic,” Bains said.
“Lower-wage workers who help us get our groceries, prepare our food at restaurants, and make sure we have the services we need deserve a basic protection like paid sick leave.”
New poll suggest B.C. small businesses can’t afford paid sick leave
The B.C. government said it also made the decision with small businesses in mind, considering businesses will pick up the cost after many struggled through COVID-19 impacts.
The province looked at jurisdictions with mandated paid sick leave, including Australia, New Zealand and several European countries, and said experience there showed the cost increases for most employers were less than expected.
They also experienced significant benefits, including increased productivity and retention of trained staff, reduced risks of injury, improved morale, and increased participation in the labour force.
The five days will be the most offered by any provincial government. Quebec offers two days and Prince Edward Island offers one.
The federal government has mandated 10 days of sick leave for all workers in federally regulated workplaces and has promised to pass that legislation by the end of the year.
– With files from Simon Little and The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.