The Horgan government has established paid sick leave for employees in B.C. taking effect January 1, 2022. This move makes British Columbia the first province in Canada to provide paid sick days to employees.

The Horgan government has explained this move as an effort to assist employees in B.C. so that they can stay home when sick or injured, without losing wages, for a set number of days each year. The government consulted with employers and employees, reviewed workplaces with pre-existing paid sick leave policies, and considered other jurisdictions with paid sick leave laws before implementing its own.

Beginning January 1, 2022, eligible employees may take five sick days per year for any personal illness or injury. The sick days do not need to be taken in a row. The paid sick days come in addition to the three days of unpaid sick leave per year that already existed under section 49.1(1) of the British Columbia Employment Standards Act. Employees are expected to provide sufficient proof of illness for their sick leaves.

Many of you are wondering whether “sickness” includes mental health sickness? We have no reason to believe mental health will not be treated as a sickness that folks need paid time off work for.


All employees covered by the BC Employment Standards Act can benefit from the paid sick days – including part-time, temporary, or casual employees. Self-employed workers, independent contractors, workers in federally regulated sector, or workers in professions (i.e. doctors, lawyers, accountants) or occupations which are specifically excluded from the ESA are not eligible.

The Horgan government expands on their move as follows:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of paid sick leave. Although many employers already offer paid sick leave to their workers, it is estimated that 50% of B.C. employees do not have access to paid leave when they are sick or injured. As a result, many British Columbians must choose between going to work sick – and possibly infecting others – or staying home and losing wages. Typically, it is women, youth, minimum wage earners and other equity groups that are more likely to be in lower-paid jobs that do not provide benefits such as employer-paid sick leave.

The B.C. government believes that workers should not have to make the choice between going to work sick or injured, or losing wages – during a pandemic or at any time. In May 2021, government amended the Employment Standards Act to make 2 improvements:

  • On a temporary basis, employers are now required to provide up to three days of COVID-related paid sick leave to employees. To support businesses struggling with the pandemic, employers are being reimbursed up to $200/day/worker. This temporary measure is in place until December 31, 2021.
  • Established a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for all workers covered under the Employment Standards Act, to start on January 1, 2022. The minimum number of days per year are to be defined in a regulation. The feedback received from this engagement will inform the development of that regulation as well as any additional program supports arising from the consultation process.

B.C.’s new sick leave will be the first for our province.”

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