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B.C. government promises changes to beef up sick pay

Last Updated Apr 27, 2021 at 6:23 pm PDT

Summary

Province says it's working on filling in gaps, but it's not an easy fix

Premier says resources aren't the issue, but rather delivery is

Vancouver doctor says patients are requesting sick notes to get COVID tests

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Easy-access, across-the-board sick pay is still not in place in B.C. and likely won’t be for sometime. The province says it is working on filling the gaps the federal government did not but it’s not an easy fix.

Premier John Horgan says the federal government — not the provincial one — has existing programs based on earnings and employment. The hope was Ottawa would have a plan in the recent budget, but it didn’t.

“But we are where we are and now the challenge for us is to make sure we bring forward something that can supplement the work that the federal government has already done and will meet the needs of working people,” he said.

“We’ve gone back to the shelf and the programs that we were working on here in British Columbia and we’re trying to get those up to seed to fill the gaps at the federal level,” Horgan added.

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Horgan says the resources aren’t the issue, but rather delivery is the problem. B.C. workers likely won’t benefit from whatever the province can do in the near future, however it’s possible something could be in place by the time cold and flu season starts again in the fall.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about paid sick days at Monday’s COVID-19 update.

“It is an important part of the workplace program to make sure that workers are able to stay home when they’re sick and that’s an ongoing discussion that I know government is having with industry,” she said.

The federal Recovery Sickness Benefit (RSB) was brought in back in November to encourage workers to stay home if they are sick rather than feel they need to go to work to get paid. The benefit is $450 per week, after taxes, for up to four weeks, however workers must forego wages and then apply to the government to be reimbursed. However employers are still responsible for sick leave pay, because employment laws around sick leave fall under provincial jurisdiction.

While many businesses offer paid sick days, many others don’t.

Doctor says several patients asking for sick notes to get COVID test

But it’s not just sick pay that’s a challenge for many workers. Some are being asked to get sick notes just to get a COVID test. Dr. Anna Wolak, a family doctor in Vancouver, says she gets at least one request like this every day.

“People are sick and they cannot afford to take time off work to get tested and stop the spread because they have to go through the ridiculous hoops of coming to me and getting a doctor’s note,” she said.

“You need to let them take the time off to get tested. You need to let them take the time off to rest and stay home and care for their symptoms … If they come back negative, that’s great. You’ve avoided an exposure,” she added.

She’s worried that even with the province promising people paid time off for vaccinations, employers are going to ask for doctor’s notes for that, too.

With files from Mike Lloyd and Lasia Kretzel