Poultry processing and other agricultural workplaces are among sources of workplace exposure to COVID-19, along with fitness facilities, restaurants and others. (Abbotsford News)

Poultry processing and other agricultural workplaces are among sources of workplace exposure to COVID-19, along with fitness facilities, restaurants and others. (Abbotsford News)

B.C. begins looking for its own COVID-19 sick pay solution

Federal, provincial budgets didn’t add to quarantine program

The B.C. government is reluctantly seeking its own way of offering sick pay to more people who experience symptoms of COVID-19 but lose pay if they stay home.

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains said he was expecting the much-delayed April 19 federal budget to include provisions that B.C. and other provinces were looking for. Beyond a previously announced program to pay up to $500 a week for people who are directed to self-isolate, the measure wasn’t there, and B.C. tabled its own budget the next day.

“The federal government’s inaction is disappointing, so we are preparing for next steps by talking to our stakeholders to ensure that workers don’t have to choose a paycheque and going to work sick,” Bains told reporters at the B.C. legislature. “We have learned very dearly that’s the one way of stopping transmission of this pandemic at workplaces.”

The B.C. Federation of Labour estimates that more than half of B.C. workers, mostly in low-wage jobs, don’t qualify for sick pay today. Workplace outbreaks in B.C. have happened in poultry plants, nursery greenhouses

“In this time of deadly variants and rising cases, ensuring worker safety with paid sick leave is imperative,” federation president Laird Cronk said. “We will continue to advocate for the over half of B.C. workers, and nearly 90 per cent of low-wage workers, who don’t have paid leave and are at higher risk of exposure.”

RELATED: Big employers stepping up with COVID-19 sick pay

RELATED: B.C. businesses ‘can’t bear burden through WorkSafeBC’

As of April 12, B.C.’s public health orders include authority to close down businesses for 10 days if three or more employees contract COVID-19. As of Monday, Fraser Health listed more than 40 business closures, from retail stores to fast food outlets, fitness facilities and manufacturing. Locations for business closures include Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, Maple Ridge and Delta.

Bains said B.C. has moved to prevent people from losing their jobs if they have to take time off due to suspected COVID-19, and amending the Employment Standards Act to require paid time off for people who have to get vaccinated during working hours.

Bains credited Premier John Horgan with starting the sick pay discussion at first ministers’ meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, resulting in the recent Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that pays up to $500 per week for two weeks for people required to quarantine due to possible exposure

“There are gaps and we identified those gaps,” Bains said of the federal program.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Just Posted

Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Pandemic year like no other, Cowichan nurses say

May 10-16 is National Nursing Week

Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre at 5878 York Rd. is now planned to be open in the fall. (File photo)
Wellness and Recovery Centre now to open in the fall

Three community dialogues scheduled for May

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Editorial: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read