BC Introduces Five Days of Paid Sick Leave for Workers

Starting January 1, 2022, BC workers will be entitled to a minimum of five paid sick days per year.

British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to legislate this level of paid time off for workers who fall ill, and this new workplace protection applies to all workers covered by the Employment Standards Act, including part-time workers.

Why Mandatory Minimum Sick Leave is Being Introduced

More than one million workers in British Columbia do not currently have access to paid sick leave, mostly those in low-wage jobs. This issue came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, with workplace outbreaks shutting down nearly 200 businesses in the Fraser Valley region alone across a two-month period.

In an effort to address this, the BC Government embarked on a consultation phase, speaking with workers and employers across our province to assess current paid sick leave coverage, and gather feedback on three potential options – three, five or 10 days of paid sick leave. More than 60,000 individuals participated in this consultation.

“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.”

Five Days Aligns with Many Existing Employer Allowances

Approximately 60% of BC-based employers do not offer employer-paid sick leave to any of their employees. During the survey phase, employers who currently provide paid sick days to their workers were asked how many days they provided – the answers were as follows:

  • Nearly 45% provide three to five days a year
  • About 25% provide six to 10 days
  • About 20% provide more than 10 days
  • Nearly 10% provide less than three days

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.

When considering the best solution for paid sick leave, the province looked to other jurisdictions that have mandated paid sick leave, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and several European countries. Their experiences have shown cost increases for most businesses were less than expected. They also experienced significant benefits, including increased productivity and retention of trained staff, reduced risk of injury, improved morale and increased labour-force participation.

“Many of the people who lack paid sick leave are the same workers we depended on most during the pandemic,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour.

“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.”

Find Out More

Visit the BC Government’s dedicated Paid Sick Leave page to learn more about this announcement, employee rights, and employer obligations.