(file photo)

The BC government has officially released the details about a new permanent paid sick leave program for employees across the province set to begin in the new year.

In a live press conference today, BC Health officials announced starting January 1st 2022, employees covered by the Employment Standards Act in British Columbia will receive a minimum of 5 paid sick days for the year. This includes part-time workers. 

According to the province, more than one million workers in BC do not currently have access to paid sick leave, mostly those in low-wage jobs.

BC is the first province in Canada to legislate a permanent minimum five days paid sick leave program at this level. 

“Beginning in the new year, workers will no longer lose pay for making the responsible choice of taking a sick day,” said Premier John Horgan.

“The pandemic has highlighted that when workers don’t have paid sick leave, it’s bad for them, it’s bad for their co-workers and it’s bad for their employers.”

When considering the possibility of legislating a province-wide sick leave program, officials looked to other jurisdictions that have mandated paid sick leave, including in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. 

Research showed, after implementing a sick leave program, the cost increases for businesses was less than expected. In addition, many businesses experienced increased productivity and retention of trained staff, reduced risks of injury, improved morale and increased labour-force participation.

When considering how this could benefit British Columbia’s workforce, the province consulted with workers and employers around B.C. to determine what sick leave programs were already in place and gather feedback. Overall, more than 60,000 people participated in this engagement. 

Feedback from workplaces that already had a paid sick leave program revealed that most workers take between zero and five sick days each year. 

During a two month period at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 200 businesses were shut down due to workplace outbreaks. 

“We have learned in this pandemic how important it is for workers to be able to stay home if they are sick. Paid sick leave is one more way we can support workers and help prevent the transmission of disease,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. 

“It gives people the means to stay away from work if they’re sick and reduces the risk to their co-workers or others they come in contact with through their jobs.”

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