(Premier John Horgan/BC Government)

A new petition launched by the BC Employment Standards Coalition and the Retail Action Network calls for a provincial program that guarantees paid sick leave for all workers across the province.

Since the global pandemic began taking its toll in B.C., public health directives have continued to stress the importance of workers staying home and not going to work if they are ill and have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu.

Premier Horgan has talked about how he himself and others in the public sector have often shown up to work while ill, stating that the pervasive view of people who go to work sick as “heroic” needs to shift in light of this pandemic and moving forward.

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However the main deterrent for people to abstain from work while ill is a fear of financial loss — something that could be mitigated through the establishment of universal sick pay, according to these advocacy groups.

The petition launched today calls on the provincial government to legislate paid sick leave under the Employment Standards Act.

“It is unfair to accuse sick workers of being irresponsible, of being villains, when they stand to lose income by not reporting for work in such circumstances,” said David Fairey, Co-Chair of the BC Employment Standards Coalition, in a statement.

“Employees should not be penalized for staying home, yet that’s exactly what happens to workers who don’t have access to paid sick leave.”

The petition calls for the immediate instatement of at least 21 days of paid sick leave in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a permanent law allowing employees to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 25 hours worked.

As of the time of publication, the petition has garnered 137 votes.

In response to questions about paid sick leave during a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Premier Horgan said he is not ruling out a provincial program but for now, he is pushing the federal government for a national program.

“I have allies in the federal government,” he added, stating that he will bring up the issue with the feds again at a telephone meeting on Thursday.

If needed, however, B.C. may end up with a paid sick leave plan of its own in the future.