Paid Sick Leave for Employees: Current Entitlements and Upcoming Changes

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to the workplace, including paid sick leave for provincially regulated employees. These paid sick leave entitlements have been introduced to encourage employees to stay  home when they’re ill, in an effort to reduce and prevent disease transmission in the workplace.  Shortly, federally regulated employees will be getting a boost to their paid sick day entitlements too.


What Employers Need to Know:

Provincial Sick Days (BC)

Since January 1, 2022, employees covered by the British Columbia Employment Standards Act have been entitled to 5 paid sick days per calendar year (Jan – Dec).

Key things to note about BC’s paid sick days:

  • The entitlement applies to all employees – full-time, part-time, temporary and casual – after they complete 90 consecutive days of employment with their employer.
  • The paid sick days can be used only for personal illness or injury that prevent the employee from reporting to work or that make it unadvisable for the employee to report to work.
  • Employers may require employees to provide reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave.
  • There are no partial sick days – the employee is not entitled to sub-divide the entitlement.
  • Unused sick days do not carry over year-to-year or paid out at the end of the year.
  • True independent contractors will not be entitled to these statutory sick days – but employers should be aware that some of their workers whom they consider contractors might actually be employees. Whether such a worker is entitled to these paid sick days will come down to the relationship between worker and employer, with the final decision lying with the Employment Standards Branch.


New Federal Rules – December 1, 2022

 Are you a federally regulated business with operations in BC? If so, the provisions of the Canada Labour Code and its regulations apply to your employees (not the BC Employment Standards Act), and new rules about paid sick time are coming into effect before the end of the year.

Starting December 1, 2022, all employees who are subject to the federal Canada Labour Code will be entitled to up to ten (10) days of paid medical leave. Federally regulated industries include international transportation (including road, marine, air, and rail), radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications, banking and certain activities of First Nations Bands.

Previously, federally regulated employees were entitled to only three (3) days of paid leave for personal illness or injury as well as other personal matters (such as carrying out responsibilities for the health or care of family members). The new medical leave will replace this personal leave as it applies to taking time for personal illness or injury.

The main rules and requirements for the federal paid medical leave are:

  • Employees will be entitled to 3 days of medical leave with pay after 30 days of continuous employment.
  • Employees will earn one further day at the start of each month after completing one month of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 10 days per calendar year.
  • Any days of medical leave with pay that an employee does not take in a calendar year will carry forward to the next calendar year and each day carried over reduces the number of days that can be earned in that next year by one. (Ultimately, this means that each year the employee’s maximum entitlement will stay at 10 days per calendar year.)
  • Employers may require employees take paid medical leave in periods of not less than one day.
  • Employers may require that employees provide a medical certificate with respect to any period of paid or unpaid medical leave that is 5 consecutive days or more (as long as that request is made by the employer in writing within 15 days after the employee’s return to work).
  • Employer must keep records related to the each period of medical leave with pay, or face administrative penalties.


Key Take Aways

If you’re a provincially regulated business in BC, you’ve likely already made changes to your policies to comply with the BC sick day requirements. Federally regulated businesses might just be turning their minds to the upcoming federal changes.

In either case, employers should ensure they have updated the following:

  • Sick leave and personal leave policies, to reflect the new statutory requirements;
  • Staffing plans, to mitigate impacts of potential increases in employee absences; and
  • Budgets/ financial plans, to reflect additional operating costs associated with the change.


This article only provides a summary about statutory entitlements to paid sick days. Need guidance on adapting to the latest sick leave policies? Reach out to Boughton Law’s Employment Group for advice on BC and federal sick leave regulations.