Can my employer force me to take my paid sick leave during the coronavirus pandemic?

After being exposed to someone with COVID, I self-isolated for the required time. I continued to do what work I could from home. I was told at the end of the isolation that I would be paid for only half the time I worked and this would come out of my sick pay. Is this legal? What can I do?



North Vancouver, BC

There are a few points in play here. First, during the period you were self-isolating, you should be paid your normal wages for the time you worked.  

Second, under human rights law, employers have a duty to accommodate their workers. That includes accommodating a disability. And COVID counts as a disability. But workers also have to be flexible, especially if you could only complete some, and not all, of your work from home.

As well, under the law, employees can take unpaid, job-protected leave due to COVID-19 reasons. This includes if they’re required to self-isolate under public health rules. And as of January 1, 2022, BC employees are entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave, regardless of whether your employer offers this as a benefit (more on how that works here).

We'd suggest writing to your employer and let them know how you feel. Remind them that you had no choice but to self-isolate, and that you were still productive when working from home. Assess your productivity during that time, and ask to be paid your normal wage for that amount of work instead of using paid sick days. Be firm, but polite.

We've got resources on guiding you through problems at work, including tips for talking to your employer and writing a letter. If it can't be worked out amicably, we can walk you through how to file a formal complaint.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in January 2022

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