The Reality of Implementing a Paid Sick Leave

This week Dr Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer, advised employers to develop business contingency plans that account for as much as 1/3 of their workforce to be off sick in the coming weeks or even months. This announcement was made just days after the new legislation requiring employers to provide 5 paid days of illness or injury leave became effective in BC. A perfect storm for employers in a tight labour market where finding qualified staff is also challenging.

Some of this is music to our HR ears. Providing paid sick leave is an important social safety net for employees. We are big fans!


For some employers, the new requirement for paid sick leave isn’t an issue as they already provide sick leave to their employees and have been accounting for this. For others, it is a potentially expensive endeavour if they haven’t built up the financial reserves to account for this additional liability.

On the flip side, we don’t like hearing that as many as a third(!) of the workforce could be off work at the same time. This reality serves to highlight a real risk that many organizations are now facing, business continuity.

Business continuity plans are great tools to help manage the risks associated with workforce fluctuations, whether it be absences for illness or for unexpected departures of key employees. Nothing like a good business continuity plan to give clear direction, to help identify cross-training opportunities and to identify where a single point of failure in a business might exist.

So, with this new reality, what is an employer to do? Here are four important tasks for you to complete to navigate these waters.

  1. Don’t avoid what is right in front of you. Develop your contingency plan for the key roles in your organization. Make sure that you can operate your business with less staff and identify those single points of failure so that you can mitigate the risk. Remember, you might be the single point of failure so be sure you have a back up plan if you get sick.
  2. Do the math. How much do you need to pay in sick leave if 30% of the workforce used their 5 days of paid leave in the course of a month? Will revenues decrease if you have people away? Then start making sure you banked the financial resources you will need to pay for this.
  3. Get compliant. Time to update your handbook or policy manual and offer the 5 days of paid leave. If you already offer sick leave, check to make sure you are offering enough. Have Personal Time Off policies but not designated sick leave? You might want to revise your policy to ensure you can prove that you are compliant with providing 5 days paid illness or injury leave (in other words, this isn’t just leave – it is sick leave). Lots of nuances to think about but in our view, compliance isn’t optional.
  4. Ditch the complacency. We have all been at this for a while and we are certainly not as vigilant with our COVID Safety Plans and our Communicable Disease Plans as we once were. You might not have a New Year’s Resolution but that doesn’t mean you can’t re-commit to these important plans. They are protecting us and helping to keep our workforce at work! Dust them off, revisit and revise and re-implement!

There is a lot on our collective plates and this probably feels like just another to-do list but these are the things that just might give you peace of mind that you are doing everything you can to provide your employees with a safe and healthy workplace. They will thank you for it!

Your Engaged Assignment: There’s never been a more important time to consider what your business continuity plan is so do give it the consideration it deserves. If you need help with designing and implementing your plan or need some advice about how to go about implementing the new sick leave policy, give us a call. We are always happy to help!