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COVID-19: BC Passes Job Protection Legislation for COVID-19 Leave and Enacts Sick Leave

On March 23, 2020, at an emergency sitting of the Legislature, the BC Government passed legislation to provide job-protected COVID-19 leave for employees who are unable to work for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill 16, Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2020, entitles employees to:

  • take three days of unpaid sick leave, provided they have been employed for 90 days; and
  • an unpaid leave of absence in relation to COVID-19 if:
    • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is complying with instructions, orders or advice from medical professionals;
    • the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with:
      • an order of the provincial health officer,
      • an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
      • guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
      • guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;
    • the employer has directed the employee not to work, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others;
    • the employee is providing care to an eligible person, including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility;
    • the employee is prevented from returning to British Columbia because of travel restrictions; or
    • a prescribed situation exists relating to the employee.

Employees wishing to take COVID-19 Leave will not be required to provide a medical note to employers. However, employers can require that employees provide evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances, as soon as practicable, to substantiate their absence.

The job protection under Bill 16 is retroactive to January 27, 2020, which is the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. If an employer terminated the employment of a person on or after January 27, 2020, but before March 23, 2020, due to any of the above COVID-19 listed circumstances, the employer must offer the employee re-employment in the same or a comparable position and treat the employee’s absence from employment following the termination as a deemed COVID-19 leave.

This update is part of our continuing efforts to keep you informed about COVID-19. Check our COVID-19 hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor blog for further updates, including in-depth analysis of emergency legislation and government orders in the federal and various provincial jurisdictions. If you need assistance, please reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team.


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