Effective January 1, 2022, BC workers are now entitled to 5 paid sick days per year thanks to a recent change to the BC Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). In order to qualify, employees must have been employed for at least 90 days, and the employee must not fall into one of the categories of employees (i.e. professions such as doctors, lawyers and engineers) that are exempt from certain provisions of the ESA.
Until this amendment, employees were only entitled to 3 days of unpaid sick leave per year under the ESA. While some employers offered paid sick leave to their employees, this was optional and solely at the employer’s discretion. That has now changed with the recent update to the ESA. We note that this annual entitlement to 3 unpaid sick days remains in force, and the mandated 5 paid sick days are in addition to this unpaid time. We further note that these represent the ESA’s minimum requirements, and employers are welcome to provide their workforce with additional time.
We recommend that employers prepare a sick leave policy outlining their employees’ entitlement to both paid and unpaid sick time. This allows employers to clearly outline what employees are entitled to in terms of sick leave, establish expectations around how much notice and what type of supporting documentation employees have to provide in order to take sick leave, as well as define what types of absences qualify as “sick leave”.