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B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread
Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the province is prepared to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-leave program but needs more information on possible cracks in the plan to help employers and employees fight the spread of COVID-19.

Horgan said Wednesday he’s heard informal reports about holes in the recent program, but requires direct evidence or data that detail any problems before taking action.

“We do know that the sick-pay benefit that we worked so hard with the federal government to establish has gaps and holes,” he told a news conference.

Horgan said he will first take his government’s concerns about the sick leave program to the federal government for possible solutions.

“It’s suggestions and solutions like those that have been proposed that we want to bring to the federal government so we can work collaboratively with them to make sure that the services that people need are there for them when they need them,” he said.

The federal benefits program was implemented last month to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces by covering the income of workers who previously didn’t get sick pay and may go to work as a result.

“It’s all critically important that we have this seamless approach to how we deal with sick time, how we make sure people do not go to the workplace when they are not feeling well,” said Horgan. “That’s how community transmission begins.”

He said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread.

“We were grateful to the federal government for taking the national leadership that they did and if there are gaps, as they say, and we can identify those by looking at the data and following through to see where we can fill those gaps, we’re absolutely prepared to do that,” he said.

Horgan said he will investigate reports that some B.C. workers are being told by employers not to come to work due to COVID-19 but are not receiving sick pay.

“I want to fix that gap and those are the very things we talked about with the federal government when we encouraged them to put in place a national program,” Horgan said. “I want to see the evidence, the data, that demonstrates there are such examples.”

Horgan said the session of the legislature that starts on Monday will last two weeks at most. The NDP wants to pass legislation to ensure it can deliver its COVID-19 relief election promise of $1,000 for most families and $500 for individuals.

READ MORE: CERB recipients should be prepared to pay income tax on payments, experts say

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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