3 Hour Paid Leave for Alberta Employees Obtaining COVID-19 Vaccinations
The Government of Alberta amended the Employment Standards Code, to allow employees to access paid, job-protected time off in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Bill 71: Employment Standards (COVID-19 Vaccination Leave) Amendment Act, 2021passed first reading in the legislature Wednesday evening. The amendments took effect immediately.
This paid leave is a stark departure from the other job-protected leaves under the Employment Standards Code, which are unpaid (noting the obligation to pay for time off to vote is legislated by the Elections Act).
The amendments provide for the following:
- employees will be permitted to take 3 consecutive hours paid leave per dose of the vaccine or any longer period if, in the opinion of the employer, the circumstances warrant a longer period;
- employers must ensure that an employee does not lose any earnings or other benefits as a result of taking the leave;
- employees cannot be terminated or disciplined by their employer for taking the leave; and
- the leave is available to all full-time and part-time employees regardless of length of service.
The leave will not apply to employees who are taking a dependent family member to receive the vaccine. However, such employees may qualify for other unpaid leaves.
While the Government of Alberta has acknowledged that this leave may be subject to abuse by some employees, it is encouraging employees to discuss the leave with their employer prior to booking an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, employees must give the employer as much notice as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. On request, employees must, as soon as is practicable, provide the employer reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave but is not required to: (a) provide a medical certificate or record of immunization; or, (b) disclose to the employer any of the employee’s underlying medical conditions. Employers will likely want to implement clear expectations and processes to minimize operational disruption.
We at McCarthy Tétrault are continuing to monitor the changes brought by this announcement. Watch our COVID-19 Recovery Hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor Blog for further updates. In the interim, if you are an employer and have any questions about the changes or any other COVID-19 workplace matter, please contact any member of our Labour & Employment Team.