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Opinion: Paid sick leave benefits everyone

A new model of paid sick leave for B.C. employees comes into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
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The B.C. government is currently seeking feedback on its new paid sick leave policy. B.C. residents have until Sept. 14 to fill out a survey.

Go to work sick or don’t get paid what would you decide?

For many, this is an impossible decision to make every time they wake up feeling unwell. More than half of B.C. workers (53 per cent) and 80 per cent of low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, racialized workers, and workers with disabilities, don’t have access to paid sick leave as provincial laws don’t require employers to offer it.

This isn’t the norm around the world. Canada lags behind globally in providing workers access to adequate paid sick days an important measure in stopping the spread of infections. Workers in Mongolia, Australia, China and other countries are able to take paid sick leave simply because it’s the law. This isn’t the case in British Columbia. 

At Community Savings Credit Union, we advocate for paid sick leave for all workers. We might finally see this wish come true, in what would be one of the biggest advances for working people for quite some time. The B.C. government has announced they will bring in paid sick leave by the beginning of next year and are asking British Columbians to have their say on how it should work. It's important that we get this right for the benefit of all workers.

During the pandemic, sick leave policies were brought to the forefront of the conversation as a way to curb the spread of the virus to protect communities and the economy. It became apparent that providing paid sick leave is not only a human right, but it also helps workplace productivity.

For example, going to work sick results in more mistakes and higher risk of injury, workers with paid sick days are 28 per cent less likely to get injured at work and have also been shown to reduce the chance of workers leaving a job by 25 per cent, resulting in substantial savings for businesses. Evidence shows time and time again that the cost of workers going to work sick does not outweigh the benefits of paid sick leave for the individual, businesses and communities.

At Community Savings Credit Union, we offer 12 days of paid sick leave all year round, and during this pandemic an additional 10 days paid leave if a member of our team contracted COVID-19 or had a reaction to the vaccine, plus an additional six hours per week to accommodate for the complexity of the pandemic. Throughout this period, we did not see a loss of productivity and instead were rewarded with increased commitment, whilst keeping our colleagues, customers and communities safe.

To ensure that the paid sick leave entitlement benefits everyone we must ensure that the B.C. government hears the voices of all workers. We demand that paid sick leave should be paid seamlessly through employers; it should be universal and accessible for all workers including those who are part-time, contract employees or immigrant workers. There should, at minimum, be an adequate allotment of at least 10 days of full wages.

The first stage of the province’s online consultation will end on Sept. 14, when they will make the proposed models for B.C.’s permanent paid sick leave program available for review and comment.

It's important we get this right for the benefit of all workers and the businesses that employ them. Both workers and businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, so make sure you get your voice heard and visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave/.

B.C.’s new sick leave policy will be the first for the province. Let's lead the country with a new standard that benefits all.