Are you a small business owner in British Columbia? Does your business have employees? Did you know that each of those employees is entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave annually?
In January 2022, British Columbia became the first province to legislate this level of paid sick days for employees covered by the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This includes part-time, full time and casual employees that have passed their 90-day probation period.
The increase in paid days off is to encourage workers to stay home when they are sick or injured. This is even more important in today's economy. These days, many people fear that they can not afford to stay home from work if they are injured or not feeling well. The fear of missed wages can make someone go to work and potentially spread disease or make an injury worse.
The five days of sick leave are in addition to 3 unpaid days off employees are entitled to annually as well. In total, a worker can take up to 8 days a year off for health reasons without fear of losing their job.
Common Questions our Clients ask Regarding Paid Sick Days:
What is defined as a year?
The entitlement for paid sick days starts on January 1st of each year and resets at the end of the calendar year.
Can sick days be prorated?
No, it doesn't matter if the employee is part-time, casual or started in November, they are still entitled to 5 paid sick days a year.
Can sick days be banked or carried over?
Unused sick days are not carried over to the next year.
Should we require a doctor's note for a paid sick day?
You can, but keep in mind the current state of our healthcare system. Employers should use their best judgment. If you suspect that the worker is not truly unwell, you can request reasonable proof of sickness or injury.
Do mental health days count?
The five paid days are meant to be for illness or injury. While taking a rest day is not considered to be either if the employee complains the Employment Standards board would make a ruling on a case-by-case basis.
Will the government reimburse me for the wages?
No, the government does not provide reimbursement for the extra costs incurred by the paid sick days.
Am I required to pay an employee to stay home with a sick child or family member?
The paid sick days apply only if the employe is ill or injured themselves. Staying home to care for someone else that is sick does not count.
Remember, wages are tax-deductible. While having to pay employees who miss work due to illness may be frustrating, there can be upsides as well. The chance of illness being spread among the workforce and a lot more people being off sick is reduced. Also, employees that don't stress about time off when sick are more likely to be happier and more productive in the long run.