The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to implement a temporary paid sick-leave program, calling such a measure “a fundamental requirement for the economic recovery of Surrey and British Columbia.”
In a news release issued Wednesday morning, the board of trade laid out a series of “considerations” regarding the creation of a paid sick-leave program, which were sent to the province’s Minister of Labour Harry Bains, who is also the MLA for Surrey-Newton.
Among ideas suggested to Bains were expanding access to paid sick leave for self-employed workers; taking over employer obligations to finance sick pay; ensuring that temporary foreign workers have access to sick pay; making the application process easy and simple for the employer to receive a level of reimbursement per employee for sick pay; and implementing mechanisms to prevent absenteeism and promote return to work.
“The Surrey Board of Trade recognizes that offering employees paid sick leave will greatly benefit businesses affected by the pandemic,” said Anita Huberman, Surrey Board of Trade CEO.
“In the United States, the introduction of a temporary paid sick leave resulted in an estimated 50 per cent reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases per state per day. It is our understanding that a majority of businesses have acknowledged the value in this benefit, by reducing the incidence of transmission of the virus thereby reducing critical impacts to the labour force, lost opportunities, costs to employers and lost wages.
“In B.C. we are behind in creating a paid sick leave program that works for all businesses and all workers.”
In addition to calling for paid sick leave during the pandemic, the board also noted in its release that “a deeper conversation” needs to be had regarding paid sick leave reforms in general – COVID-19 notwithstanding – while adding that the government “should also focus on active health and safety enforcement efforts for high-risk workplaces, where workers come in close proximity with co-workers or clients.”
There are currently more than a dozen businesses in Surrey that have been closed for 10 days due to COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.