Unexpected time off

You can take time away from work to deal with unexpected illnesses or life situations. Not every work issue, workplace, or type of work is covered by B.C. employment standards. Find out if the standards apply to you.

Last updated: May 12, 2022

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Caring for yourself

Illness or injury leave (sick days)

Illness or injury leave is sometimes referred to as sick leave. You can take up to 5 paid days and 3 unpaid days of job-protected leave. To qualify, you must have been employed for 90 calendar days.

COVID-19 leave

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control is the best source for COVID-19 health information. If you're feeling unwell, check your symptoms online.

Getting sent home

If your employer sends you home after starting your shift because you're unfit for work due to illness or injury, illness or injury leave would apply.

If you ask to leave early or your employer sends you home for reasons unrelated to personal illness or injury, you’re only paid for time worked or minimum daily pay.

Annual vacation

You earn annual vacation during the first year you're employed. After 12 months, you get two weeks of vacation. After five years, you get three weeks of vacation. If you have not used all of your vacation, you can ask your employer to use your vacation to cover time off.

Your employer can schedule your vacation according to business needs. Annual vacation is scheduled in periods of one week or more unless you ask for a shorter amount of time.


Caring for family members

If you need time away from work to care for a family member, you can take a job-protected leave of absence without pay.

Taking a leave

You don't need to work for a certain amount of time before taking a leave of absence. You need to say why you're taking a leave, but you don't need to give notice in advance.

Your employer can ask for proof that the leave is one of the types allowed. You need to provide the proof as soon as it is reasonably possible. You don't need to provide it before starting the leave.

Returning to work

You should tell your employer when you are planning to come back to work. While you're on a leave, your employer can't fire you, lay you off or change your job conditions.

When you return from a leave, if your employer can't give you your job back (or one like it), they might have to pay compensation for length of service based on your last day of employment.


Being laid off

You’re considered to be temporarily laid off when you’re given less work or no work – with the plan that you will return to a regular work schedule.

If your hours are reduced, you’re considered laid off as soon as you earn less than 50 percent of your weekly wages at your regular rate (compared to an average of the previous eight weeks).

You must agree to the layoff

This means that the 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 your employer

Your employer needs to be able to prove this is the case. If they can't, the layoff may be a termination of employment.

Layoffs have a maximum length

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 and your employer may be able to extend the temporary layoff.

If you're covered by a collective agreement, the maximum length of a layoff is the period of time during which you have the right to be recalled.


Additional resources

If you have questions, find out who to contact: