B.C. labour organization pushes for paid sick leave, following Ontario's new model

British Columbia's biggest labour organization is pushing to make paid sick days mandatory for workers in the province and has launched a new campaign calling on the government to update the Employment Standards Act.

Between 5 to 8 paid sick days a year is a good starting point, says labour federation

The B.C. Federation of Labour says employees who show up sick to work are likely to get their co-workers sick as well. (Shutterstock)

British Columbia's biggest labour organization is pushing to make paid sick days mandatory for workers in the province and has launched a new campaign calling on the government to update the Employment Standards Act.

Irene Lanzinger, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said many British Columbians currently have to decide between either going to work feeling unwell or facing lost wages.

"We think it's unfair that people have to make this decision," she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

The federation recently conducted a survey that found just over 40 per cent of respondents do not have paid sick leave.

Ontario model 

Most provinces in Canada don't include sick leave in their employment standards legislation, leaving it up to the employer to decide whether or not to offer it as a benefit.

Ontario recently introduced 10 days of general emergency leave, including two guaranteed paid sick days starting in January 2018.

Lanzinger said Ontario's model is one B.C. could follow.

"If that's the way the government wants to go, we would be happy to talk to them about that," she said.

She would like to see more than just two days dedicated to illness, however, and suggested somewhere between five to eight paid days a year as a starting point.

Public campaign

The provincial government is considering changes to the Employment Standards Act and paid leave is the top priority for the B.C. Federation of Labour.

"We think we can build the kind of support for that idea like we built for the $15 minimum wage … it's something that makes sense to people," Lanzinger said.

With the new minimum wage on it's way, Lanzinger acknowledged that paid sick leave — the cost of which is picked up by the employer — could be an additional burden to small businesses.

"I certainly have some sympathy for businesses that would have to adjust to this," she said. "You have to balance the difficulty they may face with what's fair."

British Columbia's biggest labour organization is pushing to make paid sick days mandatory for workers in the province and has launched a new campaign calling on the government to update the Employment Standards Act. 8:32

With files from The Early Edition.

Read more from CBC British Columbia

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