One of the biggest parts of small business operations is managing employees. There are a number of rules and regulations involving employees that are legally put in place by the BC Employment Standards Act (the “Act”). A large part of which affects the daily operations of a small business, including time off given to employees. 


Although the most common reasons for time off are the occasional sick or personal days, there are many scenarios where you should consider giving your employees time off, and other times where you are required to give your employees time off.


Here is a list of some of the situations to be aware of and what is required by the Act: 


Employees are entitled to take vacation days with pay after one year of work. After 12 months, they’re able to take two weeks vacation, which they must take within 12 months of it being earned. After five years of employment, they’re entitled to three weeks of annual vacation.  Keep in mind that these are minimum requirements so you can opt to give your employees more vacation time if you choose. 

Whether an employee chooses to take this time off in one period or separate intervals is up to the individual and their employer. It’s important for small business employers to understand BC’s legal requirements of employee vacation and vacation pay.  

Sick Days 

It’s standard that employees must give notice to their employer if they’re unable to work because of an illness. During COVID-19, it’s even more crucial that employers provide time off for any of their employees that show any symptoms of illness. This will protect your employee, other staff and customers.

In BC, employees are able to take up to three days of unpaid, job-protected personal illness or injury leave and also a COVID-19 leave, both of which will be discussed further below. 

Leaves of Absences

Employees are entitled to take a leave of absence for a number of reasons, as stated in the Act. Employers may not need to pay employees for certain absences, but it’s important to note that the employee’s job is protected. 

Examples of these leaves include: 

COVID-19 leave 

COVID-19 has been a large factor in the operations of many small businesses. When an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or asked by a provincial health officer to isolate for any reason, they must quarantine. In addition, there are other COVID-19 related reasons why employees may be eligible for a COVID-19 leave, including receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or providing care for an eligible person due to COVID-19 related reasons. 

Personal illness or injury leave

Employees are entitled to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave if they can’t work due to personal illness or injury. This leave is only applicable for employees who have worked for their employer for at least ninety days prior to the illness or injury. 

Maternity and parental leave

When an employee has a baby or adopts a child, they’re entitled to maternity and parental leave. Pregnant employees can take up to 17 consecutive weeks of unpaid maternity leave. After the birth, the leave continues for six weeks, with the possibility of an extension under specific circumstances. In addition, all employees are entitled to 62 weeks of unpaid parental leave, with both parents able to take up to one full period of parental leave. 


The standard issue of notice to employers is at least four weeks prior to the leave and it’s important to note that both maternity and parental leaves are job-protected. For more information, visit the BC government’s website

Family care leave

Employees are eligible for five days of unpaid family care leave each employment year. It covers the care, health or education of a dependent under the age of nineteen or the health care of any other immediate family member. 

Bereavement leave

Employees can take up to three days unpaid bereavement leave if an immediate family member dies. Note that this leave doesn’t have to be consecutive or for a funeral, nor does it need to start on the date of death. 

Compassionate care leave

An employee that needs to care for a family member who is terminally ill has 27 weeks of unpaid compassionate care leave available to them. 


Other types of job-protected leaves include critical illness or injury leave, leave respecting the death of a child, leave respecting domestic or sexual violence and more. For more information on the types of leaves of absences and employer responsibilities, visit the BC government’s Leaves of Absence page


One of the most important parts of small business management is employees, including employer requirements for time off. We know that each employee’s situation may differ and needs unique consideration. For any further questions on time-off for small business employees and special situations, consult with one of Benchmark Law’s small business lawyers