British Columbia

B.C. introduces job protection for employees unable to work due to COVID-19

Employees are now able to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they're unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons, and take up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year if they cannot work due to illness or injury.

Unpaid leave will be retroactive to Jan. 27, 2020, according to changes to B.C.'s Employment Standards Act

Premier John Horgan and a dozen MLAs gathered in the legislative assembly to make special statements about the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. government has made two changes to the Employment Standards Act to support workers both during the COVID-19 public health emergency and in the long term.

The government said in a written statement the changes will allow workers immediately to take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19. 

This means workers who are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for their child or other dependent, or whose employer is concerned that the employee may expose others to risk, will be able to take leave without putting their job at risk.

"These proactive changes ensure that no one will lose their jobs for prioritizing their health and safety, or the health and safety of their loved ones and their community," said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth in the statement. 

B.C. said during this public health emergency, people can take this job-protected leave for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies. The leave will be retroactive to Jan. 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in the province.

B.C. also implemented changes to provide up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who cannot work due to illness or injury. This is a permanent change to the act that brings B.C. in line with all other provinces in Canada.

"This crisis has highlighted the importance of having permanent job-protected illness or injury leave in place for people in this province," said Minister of Labour Harry Bains in the statement.

On Monday, the province also announced a $5-billion economic action plan to help families and businesses struggling financially through the COVID-19 crisis, including one-time payments of $1,000 to people who are now out of work.

The COVID-19 job-protected leave is tied specifically to the COVID-19 emergency and will be repealed when it is no longer needed.

To qualify for the three-day job-protected illness or injury leave, the province said employees must have worked for their employer for at least 90 days and workers may need to give reasonable evidence of eligibility if their employer requests it.

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