The COVID-19 virus has upended both the businesses of employers and the ives of employees. One area of uncertainty is what happens when an employee becomes exposed to the virus, but is not symptomatic, or is ordered to stay home, for example, because they have travelled.
The Employment Standards Act has recently been amended to provide such employees with the right to an unpaid leave. Employees who are entitled to a COVID-19-related leave are:
- employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting in accordance with
- instructions or an order of a medical health officer, or
- advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
- employees who are in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with
- an order of the provincial health officer,
- an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
- guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
- guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada;
- employees who have been directed by their employer not to work, due to the employer’s concern about the employee’s exposure to others;
- employers who are providing care to a dependent, including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility;
- employees who are outside the province and cannot return to British Columbia because of travel or border restrictions.
The length of the leave is the period during which the employee cannot work.
If the employer does not offer paid sick leave, employees on a COVID-19-related leave are entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
While an employee is on a COVID-19-related leave, an employer must not terminate the employee’s employment or change a condition of employment without the employee’s written consent. At the end of the leave, the employer must put the employee back into the same or a comparable position. During the leave, the employee is entitled to accrue vacation entitlement and length of service, and is entitled to be included in all pension and medical benefits plans offered by the employer.