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Should Employers Provide Paid Vaccination Leave to Staff?


*This blog was updated on April 28, 2021.

As provinces ramp up their COVID-19 vaccination drives, your employees may need to take time off to get the shot.

Now may be a good time to consider whether you’d want to offer a paid vaccination leave to your staff?

What are other provinces doing?

Saskatchewan was the first province to establish a paid vaccination leave for workers by amending its Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020 on March 18, 2021.

This new leave is entitled the “Special Vaccination Leave” and ensures employees:

  • are entitled to three consecutive hours leave during work hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccination
  • are entitled to more than three consecutive hours if the employer determines the circumstances warrant a longer break from work
  • do not lose any pay or benefits while receiving a COVID-19 vaccination

Alberta followed suit on April 21, 2021. It amended its Employment Standards Code to provide a paid, job-protected COVID-19 vaccine leave to all working Albertans.

The leave applies to both full-time and part-time employees and could be used twice to cover both doses of a vaccine. The amendment makes it illegal for an employer to fire or discipline a worker for taking time off to get the vaccine shot.

Employees in British Columbia, too, can avail of up to three hours of paid leave for each dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The legislation amending BC’s Employment Standards Act was passed on April 28, 2021. The new rules apply to full- and part-time employees, and are in effect retroactive to April 19.

Many businesses across Canada are also going the extra mile to offer their staff the opportunity to receive a dose while getting paid.

Companies such as Starbucks, Canada Goose and Bank of Montreal are providing staff with between 2 and 4 paid hours of leave to get vaccinated during work hours.

Here at Peninsula Canada, too, employees are eligible to receive paid time during the workday to get vaccinated.

Do employers have to implement a paid vaccination leave?

So far only three Canadian provinces have mandated a paid vaccination leave. Employers in the other 11 jurisdictions are free to decide if they want to implement a paid leave for their employees.

Many employers understand that a paid vaccination leave is an investment into the health and wellness of their workforce. However, some may view it as an extra and unnecessary cost in an already difficult time.

Although employers are undoubtedly feeling the effects of the pandemic, it is no secret that employees are as well. No doubt a paid vaccination leave may be an extra cost for employers. But it will encourage many employees to feel secure in leaving work for a couple hours to get the vaccine shot.

Many workers, especially low-paid employees, are less likely to leave work and receive the vaccine as they are unable to sacrifice their pay to do so.

While lower income groups are less inclined to miss work to receive the vaccine, they are also one of the cohorts most susceptible to the virus. Businesses that employ a large number of low-paid workers should consider offering a paid vaccination leave to staff.

What alternatives can I consider?

As an alternative, employers could establish an on-site vaccination clinic at the workplace. On-site vaccination options include:

  • the use of existing occupational health clinics
  • employer-run temporary vaccination clinics
  • mobile vaccination clinics brought into the workplace

While an on-site vaccination clinic would be time-effective and convenient, it comes with high financial costs.

Until more jurisdictions in Canada legislate a paid vaccination leave, employers will need to determine if they want to provide their employees with a paid leave, establish an on-site clinic, or provide no resources at all.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.