The recent heavy snowfall made it a challenge for some businesses to stay open. But it is up to the employer or labour contract whether workers would be paid for the day of work missed. (Ben Watanabe/Black Press)

Snow days prove costly for many workers

Employment Standards Act doesn’t cover businesses closed due to weather

With the recent snowstorm wreaking havoc on the Island, many people were left stranded at home unable to get to work, leaving some wondering if you get paid when you miss work because of weather conditions?

Stephen Portman, advocacy lead at Together Against Poverty (TAPS), says the answer depends on two things.

“Two key examples: you’re part of a union that has a provision in a collective bargaining agreement or you have an employment contract that sets out that you’re paid for closures in case of a snowstorm,” says Portman.

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According to Portman, the majority of low-wage workers in B.C. are operating without those things.

“They’re operating under the Employment Standards Act and will have gone without pay for that day,” says Portman.

Eric Nordal, spokesperson for Retail Action Network, agrees and says the snow days aren’t helping out people in the retail and service industry.

“[The days off] don’t really work out in their favour if they’re relying on that wage,” says Nordal.

According to Nordal, workers in B.C. don’t get paid sick days so if they have to miss a shift that’s on them.

If workers show up for a shift and are told to go home due to the snow, they are then entitled to the minimum daily pay, but Nordal says that’s usually in the two- to four-hour range.

“It’s the day to day, family emergency situations that add to the precarity that people face — if they miss a day of work it’s that much harder to pay rent that month,” says Nordal.

Portman calls the Employment Standards Act a basement, the bottom piece of law that workers can rely on.

“So if an employer just decides to pay their workers for losing work during that day then that’s great. But if the only protection you have is the Employment Standards Act and you have no employment contract or an oral agreement with an employer … you’re essentially not getting paid for anything.”

For those in the hospitality industry, the snowstorm meant an increase in revenue, with most hotels in Sidney booked full or nearly full after many ferries and flights were canceled due to the snow.

Teachers in all school districts were also paid for work missed due to the snow.

Precarious work is defined as workers who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights by the International Labor Rights Forum. These workers are usually part-time and are subject to unstable employment, lower wages and harsher working conditions.

According to BC Stats, 22,600 part-time jobs were added while full-time jobs declined by 13,900 in January alone.

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