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B.C. NDP introduces bill to give workers paid time off to get COVID-19 vaccine

Labour Minister Harry Bains says the government consulted with the business community, labour organizations, workers and others on changes to the Employment Standards Act.
Harry Bains
Labour Minister Harry Bains: "People shouldn’t have to make this decision, choose between pay or getting vaccinated." (Photo: Darren Stone/Times Colonist)

B.C. workers who must leave work to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should not lose pay or their jobs, says Labour Minister Harry Bains.

Bains introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act on Monday that, if passed, would provide workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.

“We know that many workers can’t afford to lose pay, and we need to make sure that it’s as easy as possible for workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Bains said.

“This paid leave will ensure that no one will have to choose between losing pay and getting their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Workers currently have job-protected leave to take as much time as they need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The amendments would ensure no one loses pay if they need time away from work to get vaccinated.

Bains said the government consulted with the business community, labour organizations, workers and others on the changes.

Kim Novak, president of UFCW 1518, said the union is pleased the government is ­mandating paid time off for all workers to the vaccine. The union represents almost 25,000 members in the community health, retail, hospitality, industrial and professional ­sectors.

“[Monday’s] announcement means a critical barrier has been removed for workers — they no longer have to choose between getting paid at work or getting their life-saving vaccinations,” she said.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said business should look at the paid leave as an investment in a “future free of COVID-19, which will be good for their business and their bottom line, and ultimately economic recovery for all industries.”

Bains said when workers are vaccinated, it benefits everyone involved.

He expects most workers will be able to book ­vaccination appointment times outside of work hours but there will be some people who need to take time off to get immunized.

“The basic principle remains that when they need to take time off to be vaccinated, they will not lose their job or their pay,” he said, calling it a “win-win-win” situation.