In what it said is a move to better support workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the BC government announced Monday afternoon that it has made two “significant changes” to the province’s Employment Standards Act.
Firstly, the changes will allow workers to immediately take unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to coronavirus.
This means workers who are ill, who need to self-isolate, who 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 BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “Given these extraordinary times, we are ensuring that the legislation provides protections for those impacted by COVID-19.”
The leave will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive coronavirus case was confirmed in BC. People can take this job-protected leave for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies.
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Secondly, to better support workers on an ongoing basis, the changes also 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 BC 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 BC Labour Minister Harry Bains. “We’re stepping up and bringing in this new leave to support workers over the long term, beyond this crisis.”
While on job-protected leave related to the coronavirus pandemic, workers may also be eligible for financial support through expanded Employment Insurance benefits through the federal government.
The announcement comes after a noon-hour press conference today, during which BC Premier John Horgan announced a $5 billion economic “action plan” that is being put in place to help support people and businesses in British Columbia as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“The COVID-19 pandemic challenges our health, our economy and our way of life,” said Horgan. “Our action plan focuses on services to protect people’s health and safety, gives immediate relief to people and businesses, and plans for B.C.’s economic recovery over the long term.