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 two weeks. I continued to do what work I could from home. I was told at the end of the two-week isolation that I would be paid for one week in total and this would come out of my sick pay. Is this legal? What can I do?

Olivia

Olivia

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.

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 teach you how to file a formal complaint.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • Reviewed in April 2020
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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