How many sick leave days is too many?

Province asks staff how much leave they'd like

How many sick leave days is too many?

British Columbia is pooling the opinion of the public regarding the number of paid sick days that should be granted to employees, after recent studies revealed that around one-half of workers in the province don’t get the perk. The public has been asked whether BC workers should have three, five, or 10 paid sick days in a short survey - as part of the second phase of the government's plan to develop a made-in-BC permanent paid personal illness and injury leave.

"No one should have to choose between going to work sick or losing wages. Paid sick leave is good for businesses, good for workers and good for our communities. We're asking for input on the next step toward making paid sick leave a permanent reality for British Columbia," said Labour Minister Harry Bain.

The consultation will remain open until October 25, with the regulation to be established and implemented on January 1, 2022. The feedback phase follows an initial survey between August 5 and September 14 that asked about paid sick leave options among employers and employees. One of the survey's key findings revealed that about one-half of British Columbian workers do not have employer-paid sick days, while 60% of managers do not offer the benefit to their employees.

Read more: Around 12,500 health-care workers in British Columbia mull resignation: union

According to the study, employees without this benefit are more likely to be working lower-paid jobs. These employees said they still report to work despite being sick or return to the office despite not fully recovering. As of the latest study, about 45% of employees provide three to five days of paid annual sick leave to their employees. About 25% offer six to 10 days, 20% provide over 10 days, while nearly 10% said they give less than three days of paid sick leaves.

The value of sick leave has been further heightened amid the outbreak of COVID-19 across the world. Amendments to the Employment Standards Act in May 2021 provided a temporary three-day COVID-19 paid sick leave that can be availed until the end of the year. Under the policy, the government will reimburse employers $200 per day per worker to help them cover wages. This seeks to offer support to businesses that do not provide a paid illness leave to employees.

This is similar to the recently passed legislation in Ontario that grants workers up to three days of paid sick leave during the pandemic. Re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged up to 10 days of paid sick leave for federal workers, Global News reported. The Liberal leader added that he would “immediately” convene with provinces and territories to discuss the legislation once re-elected.

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