In an open letter to Premier Horgan, the BC Federation of Labour, with the support its union affiliates, called on the government of BC to bring in a 10-day sick pay program that will apply to all workers. As a union, we believe that raising the bar for all workers is imperative in the fight for better working conditions for our members and improvements to our own collective agreements.
The current COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need for paid sick leave, with workplaces proving to be a key component for the efficient spread of the virus.
Earlier this year, our provincial government responded to public calls led by the labour movement and legislated a permanent 3-day paid sick leave program to start in January 2022. The specifics regarding qualifying requirements, benefit levels and funding are still being determined by the province, in consultation with the public and businesses. An update on their consultation results will be available in November, more details can be found here.
The BCFed backed this campaign with research that was captured in a report confirming that “paid sick leave should be a right of employment for all workers — one that protects society from broader contagion and illness, and benefits and helps not only workers and their families, but businesses of all sizes as well”.
The report mentions that “as many as 145 countries require some form of paid sick leave for workers. More than 100 of these countries stipulate one month or more of leave, and 33 countries stipulate 11 to 30 days, with varying ranges of wage replacement.” This tells us that our demands for paid sick leave are not unrealistic but rather, long overdue.
While our provincial government is seeking input on its permanent sick leave program, the evidence outlined in the BCFed report has identified five key principles that should be considered:
1. Fully Paid: When a worker wakes up feeling sick, they can stay home and receive their full wage or hourly rate of pay. Full wage replacement ensures there is no penalty to being sick and removes the economic barrier to putting personal and public health first. This is particularly important when considering the disproportionate number of low-wage workers — those with the least income security — who will benefit from paid sick leave.
2. Universal: A solution that applies to full-time, part-time, casual, temporary and term specific workers, regardless of immigration status or employment sector. Leaving some workers without sick leave coverage creates gaps in public health protection and prevents the limiting of contagion and spread of illness. It is also discriminatory, creating different classes of workers. Everyone benefits when all sick workers can stay home.
3. Seamless: A program paid for and immediately available through employers with no disruption, application process or delays. Barriers to paid sick leave use — like application processes, waiting periods, and reimbursement — discourage its use.
4. Protected: Workers must not receive any penalty or retaliation for using sick days, and use of sick days must not be allowed to reflect negatively in worker evaluations.
5. Ample: Workers should have access to 10 days of leave per year: three days at the outset of employment with the ability to accrue an additional seven days based on hours worked. Ten days is a common standard across the OECD for employer-paid sick leave. Ten days also helps bridge workers to access Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits. Additional days should be available during pandemics and other public health crises to account for public health
requirements like quarantining.
The #10days campaign may be over (for now) but the work to lobby for this to become a reality continues. We all can advocate for paid sick leave for all workers by raising awareness to ensure workers voices are heard. Please take the time to tell you MLA that BC workers need 10 paid sick days. Every voice counts, your voice counts.