Breaking news: Job-protection and COVID-19 leave of absence from work for BC workers

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Job-protection and COVID-19 for BC Workers

On 23 March 2020, the BC Government amended the BC Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) to provide job-protection to employees who are unable to work for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This applies to all employees in BC who are not within Federal sector employment who are ill or have to self-isolate. It also applies to employees in BC who must provide care to a dependent such as a family member over the age of 19 who is unable to care for themselves, or their own child, or a child under their care and control pursuant to an agreement or court order.

While employers may ask the employee to provide “reasonably sufficient proof”, the ESA now prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to provide a medical certificate in in these circumstances.

This amendment also provides employers concerned that an employee may pose a risk to others with the ability to require an employee to take leave without terminating the employment relationship.

This amendment is retroactive to 27 January 2020 when the first COVID-19 presumptive case was confirmed in BC. This amendment may be in effect only for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic in BC.

While BC workers are on a job-protected leave of absences, they may be eligible for financial assistance through the expanded Employment Insurance benefits put in place by the Federal Government. For further information click here.

Secondly, all BC workers are now entitled to take up to three days of unpaid leave each year if they are unable to work due to illness or non-employment related injuries (absences for employment related injuries are covered under the BC Workers Compensation Act). This is a permanent revision to the ESA and is not limited to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The full text of Section 52.12 of the ESA provides job-protected leave if:

(a) the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with

(i)            instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or

(ii)           advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;

(b) the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with

(i)            an order of the provincial health officer,

(ii)           an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),

(iii)            guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or

(iv)           guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;

(c) the employer, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work;

(d) the employee is providing care to an eligible person[1], including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility;

(e) the employee is outside the province and cannot return to British Columbia because of travel or border restrictions;

(f) a prescribed situation exists relating to the employee.

For further information about these new job-protected leaves, click here and/or contact us to arrange for a 30 minute free consultation via web conference or telephone conference or contact the Employment Standards Branch.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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