Province seeks ideas for permanent paid sick-leave program

The province is launching two new online surveys to hear ideas from British Columbians on how best to structure its planned permanent paid sick-leave program.

After the public-engagement process is completed, the ­government expects paid sick leave will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

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One of the critical lessons during the pandemic was the importance of workers staying home when they are sick to avoid spreading illness to others and to keep workplaces productive, Minister of Labour Harry Bains said Thursday.

But many workers, especially those in lower-paying jobs without benefits, can’t afford to lose wages by missing work due to illness or personal injury. Half of all B.C. workers — or more than a million people — are not eligible for paid sick leave, according to the province.

Many of those without paid sick-leave benefits are vulnerable and low-wage workers, often women or migrant workers.

Between Thursday and Sept. 14, the first survey will seek information from workers and employers on the kinds of paid illness and injury leaves currently provided and how they meet workers’ needs.

Then from Sept. 20 to Oct. 25, the public can look at and comment on options for different sick-leave models, including the number of paid days and other supports. To share thoughts on the program, go to engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave.

Bains said a paid ­sick-leave program will help B.C.’s economy recover faster, adding no one should have to choose between going to work while sick or losing wages.

In May, the province amended the Employment Standards Act to set up a temporary ­COVID-19 paid sick-leave program covering up to three days of leave until the end of this year. It’s reimbursing employers up to $200 per day per worker.

Doug King, Together Against Poverty Society’s executive director, urged people to participate in the survey, saying there are “countless stories of workers being required to work sick.”

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