BCGEU calls on all employers to drop doctor’s note requirement amid COVID-19 scare

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, gray, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP.

The B.C. Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU) is encouraging employers to waive the requirement for employees to produce a sick note to access sick leave.

The B.C. government announced last week employees no longer have to produce a sick note amidst concerns over the coronavirus.

“We all must take appropriate steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, and B.C. workers need to do so without barriers or additional risk of infecting others,” BCGEU President Stephanie Smith said.

“Our provincial government has made the responsible decision to waive their employees’ need for doctor’s notes for COVID-19-related illness, and our union urges all employers in B.C. follow suit.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have consistently recommended British Columbians stay home if they are feeling sick.

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As of Monday morning, the province has confirmed 32 cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia.

The B.C. government has not created financial supports for employees, who are required to miss work and do not have sick days. Henry has asked employees to be flexible and have encouraged businesses to find ways for employees to work from home if they are feeling sick.

Click to play video: 'Dr. Bonnie Henry announces first coronavirus death in British Columbia'
Dr. Bonnie Henry announces first coronavirus death in British Columbia

“We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and the message from public health experts is clear—one critically important thing we all need to do is stay home if we feel sick,” Smith said.

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“Right now many employers require workers to produce a doctor’s note to access their sick leave, which creates a needless administrative hurdle for workers, an additional strain on our health care system, and an increased risk of spreading the infection.”

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The union is joining the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) and the Canadian Labour Congress in a call for enhanced sick leave protections and the elimination of the one-week wait period for Employment Insurance.

The organizations say it’s essential that workers are not forced to risk exacerbating the spread of coronavirus for fear of losing their paycheque or their job.

The BCFED is calling on paid sick leave for all BC employees.

Paid sick leave is not currently covered by the Employment Standards Act in BC meaning part-time and casual workers are often not covered.

“Workers should not have to choose between their health and their ability to keep their jobs and pay their bills,” BCFED president Laird Cronk said.

“Ensuring paid and protected sick leave during a pandemic is an immediate and practical step governments can take to protect public health, limit the spread of infection, and remove an untenable choice for workers.”

Calling the circumstance ‘extraordinary’, the BCFED is urging the B.C. government to issue guidance to employers on their duties and obligations to perform risk assessments and keep workplaces safe.

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The BCFED is also calling on the federal government to waive the one week waiting period for access to Employment Insurance for those who have lost their jobs due to the illness, and to consider other income support options depending on the scale of the spread of the virus.

“Paid and protected sick leave is not some luxury benefit. It’s an essential public health priority” Cronk said.

“Let’s make sure our response to this virus doesn’t exacerbate economic insecurity”

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