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Provinces Establish Paid Leave Relating to COVID-19

Fasken
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Labour, Employment & Human Rights Bulletin | HR Space

As Canada continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial governments have been taking steps to reduce the financial impact on employees. A recent step that governments have taken is to provide employees with the right to paid time off work for reasons related to COVID-19. The reason a leave may be taken and the extent of the entitlement differ by province, and the following discussion provides a high-level overview for each of the provinces as of the current date.

British Columbia

Employees now have the right to three consecutive hours of paid leave to be vaccinated against COVID-19.[1] Employees may also be entitled to an additional three hours for a second vaccination dose.[2]

Employers can require employees to provide, as soon as practicable, “reasonably sufficient proof” of their entitlement to the paid leave.[3] Employers cannot ask employees to prove their entitlement through a note from a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse. [4]

Alberta

On request, an employer must provide employees with a leave of up to a maximum of three consecutive hours (or any longer period if, in the opinion of the employer, circumstances warrant a longer period) without loss of pay or other benefits for the purposes of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.[5] Employees may be entitled to an additional three hours of leave for a second dose.

Employers can require employees to provide, as soon as is practicable, “reasonably sufficient proof” of their entitlement to the paid leave.[6] Employees have no obligation to provide a medical certificate or a record of immunization, or to disclose information about any underlying medical conditions.[7]

Saskatchewan

Employers must, on request, provide workers a leave of a minimum of three consecutive hours (or a longer period if, in the opinion of the employer, circumstances warrant a longer period) without loss of pay or other benefits to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.[8]

Ontario

Employees are entitled to three days (you read that right; “days” not “hours”) of paid leave for reasons related to designated infectious diseases, which includes COVID‑19 (“Paid Statutory Leave”).[9] Employees are paid the lesser of $200 per day and the wages they would have received if they had not taken the leave (a special calculation applies to “performance related wages”).[10]

The Paid Statutory Leave is available to employees who require time off work, among other things, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. This is similar to employees in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. However, the Paid Statutory Leave is broader. It may also be available in a number of other prescribed circumstances, including the following example scenarios:

  • an employee requires time off work to take a COVID-19 test and await the results of the test;
  • an employee is directed by their employer to self-isolate due to the employer’s concern that the employee may expose others at work to COVID-19;
  • an employee requires time off work to self-isolate while sick with COVID-19;
  • an employee is experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination; or
  • an employee requires time off work to provide care to one of the “specified individuals” in section 50.1(8) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) – like a spouse, child and other listed individuals – for one of the specified reasons related to COVID-19.
  • While the Ontario government has provided employees with a right to a Paid Statutory Leave under the ESA, an employee’s entitlement may be reduced if, on April 19, 2021, the employee is entitled to take paid leave under an employment contract in any of the circumstances for which the employee would also be entitled to take the Paid Statutory Leave.[11] In addition and depending on the circumstances, an employee might not be entitled to the Paid Statutory Leave if the employee’s contract already provides a greater right or benefit. Some employers may qualify for reimbursement by the government for this Paid Statutory Leave. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is handling the reimbursement process for the government. 

Takeaways for Employers

With the introduction of the paid leaves, employers should review their policies and practices to ensure that they are complying with applicable legislation. Employers may also wish to explore whether they are required to provide employees with the paid leave in addition to the employees’ existing entitlements, or whether the paid leave entitlements are already satisfied by existing benefits provided to employees.

 


[1] Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113, s. 52.13(1)-(2)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113, s. 52.13(5)

[4] Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113, s. 52.13(6)

[5] Employment Standards Act, RSBC 1996, c 113, s. 53.9821(2) – (5)

[6] Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, S-12.1 Reg 10, s. 53.9821(6)

[7] Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, S-12.1 Reg 10, s. 53.9821(6)

[8] Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, S-12.1 Reg 10, s. 6-22.1.

[9] Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41, s. 50.1(1.2)

[10] Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41, s. 50.1(1.11).

[11] Employment Standards Act, 2000, SO 2000, c 41, s. 50.1(1.4)

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