Employment Standards Act Updates

This is to notify you that the Employment Standards Act was amended yesterday by an act of the Provincial Legislature.

Here are the new provisions:

COVID-19 Leave: The first amendment to the ESA provides workers with an unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Employers cannot ask for medical notes but can request “reasonably sufficient proof.” The leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020. Employees terminated for these reasons after that date are considered on leave and must be offered re-employment in the same or a comparable position. The specific circumstances in which this leave applies included where:

  1. the employee has been diagnosed with COVID19 and is acting in accordance with the instructions of a medical professional;
  2. the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation pursuant to a provincial order or the guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control or pursuant to a federal order or the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;
  3. the employee is providing care to a child or to a dependent adult;
  4. the employee is outside B.C. and cannot return to the province because of travel or border restrictions; or
  5. the employee is directed not to report to work by their employer due to concerns about their exposure to others.

Unpaid Sick Leave: The second change to the ESA creates a new entitlement for all workers to three days of unpaid sick leave each year. While the COVID-19 leave is tied to the current crisis and will be repealed after the crisis, this leave is meant to be a permanent change to the Employment Standards Act.

Emergency Medical Services Only: All medical practitioners, from chiropractors to doctors, are being directed to minimize physical contact with patients and reduce their practices to emergency services only.

As you can see, our employers already provide far and above any of the minimum requirements enacted above.

The general principle we should be aiming for here is as follows:

  1. Employees in designated vital public services who are asked to return to work who have health concerns or are concerned about being exposed to the virus should be permitted to remain at home, however, they would at that point use their sick days.

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