By Isabelle Dehler-Hyde, TAPS Employment Standards Legal Advocate
In November 2021, the BC Government introduced mandatory employer-paid sick leave to the Employment Standards Act (ESA). As of January 1st, 2022, all employees covered by the ESA became entitled to five paid days of “injury or illness leave” per year. As this is a whole new area of law, we expect that workers may have some questions about what this means for them.
Who is eligible for paid sick leave?
To be eligible for paid injury and illness leave, an employee:
must be covered by the ESA (which does not cover federally regulated workplaces and many professions with regulatory bodies like lawyers, accountants, engineers, and physicians);
must have been employed for at least 90 days consecutively; and
can be full-time, part-time, temporary, or even casual to qualify.
What can I expect from my workplace’s sick leave policy?
The ESA sets the minimum standards for how sick leave policies should be set up. While your employer cannot go lower than these standards, they can always exceed them. With that said, here is the bare minimum that you can expect for your workplace’s sick leave policy:
A minimum of five paid sick days for all employees and an additional three unpaid sick days per employment year – you cannot be required to use your unpaid days first.
Sick days cannot be pro-rated, not even for part-time or casual employees.
Unpaid sick leave cannot be carried over into the following year unless approved by your employer.
Sick leave should be paid by using the following formula: (amount earned over the last 30 days) ÷ (days worked).
Sick leave is calculated based on a full workday and the ESA does not consider partial sick days. Consequently, any partial sick time taken off on any given day (even just one hour) qualifies as one day of sick leave unless your employer agrees otherwise.
This leave is for personal illness or injuries only, so it cannot be taken for wellness days or family/caregiver responsibilities unless your employer agrees otherwise.
Your employer cannot require advanced notice to use sick leave; however, you should advise your employer as soon as you can that you are sick or injured and cannot attend work.
Your employer can ask for “reasonably sufficient proof.” What that means depends on the specific circumstances of your situation, but could mean that your employer can ask for a doctor’s note.
Does this apply to unionized workplaces?
Yes. Section 3 of the ESA requires that the paid sick leave provisions in a collective agreement meet or exceed the requirements of the Act. If your workplace has a collective agreement that provides for paid sick leave that is the same or better than what is set out in the ESA, then the collective agreement language prevails. If your workplace has a collective agreement that has no paid sick leave or less than five days, the ESA language is deemed to have become a part of the agreement.
What can I do if my workplace is not proving paid sick leave?
If you are in a non-unionized workplace and your employer refuses to pay you for sick leave or is disciplining you for taking sick time, you can file a complaint with the BC Employment Standards Branch. You can call the BC Employment Standards Branch’s information line or a legal advocacy organization in your area to get more information before filing a complaint.
If you are in a unionized workplace, you should reach out to a shop steward or union representative. Note, you cannot file complaints through the BC Employment Standards Branch if you are in a union – you must address your issue through your workplace’s union.
If you live in the Capital Regional District and have questions or concerns about your workplaces’ sick leave policies (or lack thereof), please contact TAPS at 250-361-3521 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you live outside the CRD area, you can contact the Employment Standards Branch at
1-833-236-3700 or search for a legal advocacy organization in your area at povnet.org/find-an-advocate.