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British Columbia workers can now receive paid leave to get vaccinated

British Columbia has been working to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this year, the province launched an Immunization Plan, which enabled residents to conveniently schedule their vaccinations online. The Plan also provided flexible clinic hours in order to make vaccines accessible to all people – even those with atypical working hours. A new change in the law further supports this mission.

What has changed?

The Legislative Assembly recently passed Bill 3, the Employment Standards Amendment Act, 2021 which amended the Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c. 113 to allow workers a job-protected, paid leave from work for the purpose of getting vaccinated. The law applies retroactively to April 19, 2021. Workers are provided with up to three hours of paid leave from work to receive each dose of the vaccine. This applies to both full-time and part-time workers.

Why is this important?

This change in the law has wide-reaching value – to workers, businesses, and the community at large:

  • It helps to ensure that no worker has to choose between a loss in pay and getting vaccinated.
  • It helps workers to stay safe and protect themselves and their families from the virus.
  • It lowers the risk of an infected workforce, thereby supporting seamless business operations.
  • It helps protect customers from getting sick and reduces the chance of an outbreak.
  • It also helps stop the spread of highly infectious COVID-19 variants which are currently growing in British Columbia.

What if I need additional time off?

The three-hour paid leave per vaccine dose is intended to be sufficient for any worker to get themselves vaccinated. If a worker requires additional vaccine-related time off – for instance, to take a dependent family member to a vaccine appointment – Section 52.12 of the Employment Standards Act permits workers to take job-protected, unpaid leave to fulfill such requirements.

This pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to all of us. If you have any questions with respect to your rights as a worker or obligations as a business owner with respect to vaccinations, please contact one of our lawyers; we would be pleased to assist you.

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