Proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act could double the amount of paid sick days from five to 10. (File photo.)

Paid sick days could double under revised B.C. employment law

Ladysmith small business owners watching closely

What might be a welcome change for sickness-prone or casual workers in the Ladysmith area could result in financial difficulties for their bosses.

An overhaul of the Employment Standards Act could come as early as this spring with the prospect of enhanced sick day and statutory holiday pay reforms raising concerns among employers.

B.C. Ministry of Labour is accepting public comments until March 31 on modernization of the act, last significantly reviewed 25 years ago. Among recommendations on the table: a doubling of 10 paid sick-leave days from the current five and a lowering of work days required for employees to qualify for statutory holiday pay. Employees would have to work only 16 of the preceding 60 days rather than 15 of the preceding 30 days.

The proposed changes follow a four-year review by the B.C. Law Institute, an independent, non-partisan group.

Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody) is urging businesses to join an email campaign protesting the proposals. The chamber argues that the changes would add to a cost burden already inflated by minimum wage increases and the new Employer Health Tax.

Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce president Tammy Leslie noted that the sick-leave proposal would constitute a substantial increase for employers. However, the matter hasn’t been raised at the local or regional level, she said.

“If changes are coming, we will be closely monitoring them because it definitely affects small business,” Leslie said.

Rising costs were cited by the B.C. Chamber in its response last week to the federal budget. A recent chamber survey indicated confidence in the B.C. economy has slipped by half among businesses.

Seventy-nine per cent of respondents indicated that the increased cost of doing business in the province is the primary cause, said Val Litwin, B.C. Chamber CEO.

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