By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor
The BC Government is asking workers and business owners for feedback on how many days of paid sick leave BC workers should have when the government introduces permanent paid sick leave legislation this fall.
Half of BC workers will not have access to any paid sick leave when the mandate of three days of COVID-19-related paid leave expires at the end of December. Permanent legislation is now on the table and, once approved, is slated to begin Jan. 1st 2022.
It’s about time. Being sick is an unavoidable part of life, and no one should be penalized financially because of it. Paid sick leave should be for all employees, including those part-time and seasonal as well as foreign workers, as they are often the ones lacking existing paid sick leave.
The bottom line is simple: if you’re sick stay home. Unfortunately that’s not often the case. According to the Province’s first round of consultation, employees without paid sick leave reported regularly going to work sick or returning to work before fully recovering. During a pandemic, or even during flu season, this can be disastrous. It causes more people to get sick, costs us more in health care, and harms productivity and supply chains.
But the catch is, who will pay for it?
Many businesses are still fighting for survival during a global pandemic. How much can a small business afford? The options given in the government survey include 3 days, 5 days, and 10 days of paid sick leave per employee. Can a business owner afford to pay up to 10 days of sick leave for every person on staff? Only if the business isn’t fighting for survival. Half of business owners said 3-5 days per year would have a major impact on their business. And three quarters of business owners said 6-10 days would have a major impact.
The BC government currently covers three days of COVID-related sick leave for each employee during this pandemic. Businesses are reimbursed when employees stay home sick.
The Province should continue to cover some sick days under new legislation, especially during COVID-19 restrictions. Perhaps it could cover the first three days for each employee. Or, it could cover all sick days paid out by the business above a certain number, say anything above six days per small business, regardless of how many staff take time off.
We can’t afford to burden small businesses who are already stretched to the brink. At the same time, we can’t ask workers to stay home when sick if we don’t have their backs.
Luckily for businesses, employees with existing employer-paid sick leave don’t usually use all their paid sick days in a year.
Let’s hope that whatever the number of days, the Province has a plan to help small businesses with that cost.
The survey is open until October 25th and can be found here: engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave