Handling absences and other disruptions

Find out what you must do if employees fall ill, are absent from work, or your business is unexpectedly disrupted.

Last updated: May 12, 2022

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Leave related to COVID-19

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control is the best source for COVID-19 health information.

Employees unable to work for specified reasons relating to COVID-19 can take job-protected leave. For example, an employee could take a leave to get vaccinated, to assist a dependant to get vaccinated, or because they or someone they look after have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Employees can take this leave for as long as they need it without putting their job at risk.


Illness or injury leave

After 90 days of employment, employees can take up to 5 days of paid leave and 3 days of unpaid leave per calendar year.

 

Paid sick leave entitlements for 2022

If an eligible employee has not yet taken any paid sick days they're entitled to 5 paid days from March 31, 2022 until December 31, 2022.

If an eligible employee has taken part of their 5 day entitlement, those days reduce the employee’s 5 day entitlement up to December 31, 2022.

Example: An employee who took 2 paid sick days in February 2022 would be entitled to the remaining 3 paid days from March 31, 2022 to December 31, 2022.

If an eligible employee has taken 5 paid sick days, those days are counted against their 2022 calendar year entitlement. They would have no further paid sick days until 2023.

If an eligible employee has taken 7 paid sick days, they're not entitled to any further paid sick days until 2023. You can't reduce the number of sick days from an employee's entitlement in 2023 or require an employee to repay wages for taking a sick day. Each calendar year the 5 paid days and 3 unpaid days entitlement resets. The employee in this case was entitled to and granted 7 paid sick days based on the legislation in force at the time.

 

Paid sick leave entitlements for 2023

All eligible employees are entitled to 5 paid days and 3 unpaid days from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023

Example 1: An employee who started employment on February 1, 2022 is entitled to 5 paid sick days from May 2, 2022 to December 31, 2022 and 5 paid sick days from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023

Example 2: An employee who started employment on June 1, 2022 is entitled to 5 paid sick days from August 30, 2022 to December 31, 2022 and 5 paid sick days from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023

Example 3: An employee who started employment on December 1, 2022 is entitled to take 5 paid sick days after 90 days of employment from March 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023

Illness or injury leave does not carry over from year to year if it is not used. You should keep a record of the absence.

Employees can take time away from work without warning to deal with unexpected illnesses or life situations. They don't need to give you advance notice. You can ask for reasonably sufficient proof that an employee is entitled to this leave.

You need to follow B.C. employment standards if your business is unexpectedly disrupted or employees must be absent from work.

Sending an employee home

If you send an employee home after they report to work because they're unfit for work due to illness or injury, illness or injury leave would apply.

If they ask to leave early or you choose to send them home for reasons unrelated to personal illness or injury, they're only paid for time worked or minimum daily pay.


Leaves of absence

An employee's job is protected if they take a leave of absence. Employees decide if they need to take a leave of absence, tell you when they need to take the leave and why.

Before the leave

You can ask the employee for proof that their leave is one of the allowed types. Proof doesn't need to be provided before starting the leave

During the leave

The employee's job is protected while they're on a leave of absence:

  • Employment is considered to be continuous
  • The employee receives wage and benefit increases like normal
  • You can't fire or lay off the employee or change their job conditions unless they agree in writing

When the leave ends

At the end of the leave:

  • Contact the employee and arrange their return to work
  • Return them to the job they had before the leave

If the employee's job no longer exists (and there isn't a similar job), their employment might have been ended and you may have to pay compensation for length of service.


Temporarily laying off employees

Layoffs can be temporary, not permanent. If an employee won't be returning to a regular work schedule, the layoff is a termination of employment.

Employees that have been temporarily laid off are still considered to be employed. Any benefits and entitlements (including vacation and leaves of absence) are protected.

Employees must agree to the temporary layoff

This means that the temporary layoff is:

  • Normal and expected in the industry (e.g. in the logging industry where work cannot be performed during “break-up”) OR
  • Part of an employment contract OR
  • Agreed to between you and the employee

An employee's decision on whether to refuse a temporary layoff and end their employment may affect their eligibility for federal government benefits.

Temporary layoffs have a maximum length

Temporary layoffs can only be up to 13 weeks in a period of 20 weeks (about three months in a period of five months). If exceptional circumstances apply, you may be able to extend the temporary layoff beyond 13 weeks.

If an employee is covered by a collective agreement, the maximum length of a layoff is the period of time during which they have the right to be recalled.


Group terminations

If circumstances require you to terminate 50 or more employees at a single location within a two-month period, you must give written notice of group termination to each employee affected, the Minister of Labour, and any trade union that represents the employees.


Additional resources

If you have questions, find out who to contact: