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No timeline yet for B.C. paid sick leave legislation

Last Updated Apr 27, 2021 at 8:58 am PDT

FILE: Premier John Horgan looks on during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The province still hasn't given a timeline on when we could see paid sick leave legislation

Premier John Horgan has been promising to fill gaps in federal programs once he knows more about them

Paid sick leave was not mentioned in either the provincial or federal budgets last week

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province says it’s working on legislation to bring in paid sick leave, but there’s still no timeline on when it could be introduced.

In December, Premier John Horgan said his government was prepared to fill the gaps in the federal sick leave program, saying no worker should be denied pay when they are preventing the spread of COVID-19 by staying home when unwell. He said the province was waiting on more information on what could be lacking in Ottawa’s plan.

Since then, pressure has been building to have the province follow through and legislate paid sick days for all. There was no mention of funding for paid sick leave in the provincial or federal budgets last week.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about it 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.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix adds the province is working on it and has passed other measures to protect workers, pointing to legislation introduced last week guaranteeing paid time off to get vaccinated.

The amendments to the Employment Standards Act that, if passed, would give workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. Labour Minister Harry Bains says this change means people can be immunized without worrying it might take an economic toll.

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.

Ontario offers to top up federal benefit

The Ontario government offered to double the federal paid sick day payments to $1,000 a week, but federal Finance Minster Chrystia Freeland said the RSB is not meant as a substitution for a provincial paid sick leave program.

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is there to help those Canadians who would otherwise fall through the cracks – either because they do not have a regular employer or because their province has not yet mandated that paid sick leave be offered,” a statement reads.

– With files from the Canadian Press and Cormac Mac Sweeney