Canada

In an effort to encourage as many people as possible to be vaccinated, the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Colombia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have passed legislation to provide employees with paid leave to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus during working hours.

Alberta

The new measure amends the Employment Standards Act and entered into effect on 21 April 2021. The new measure will remain in force until repealed.

The vaccination leave is paid by the employer and applies to all employers and all employees in Alberta, for each injection, until the employee is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The vaccination leave entitles employees to up to three consecutive paid hours to obtain their vaccination. Employers may grant a longer paid period if they deem it necessary. Employers must ensure that their employees do not lose any wages or benefits as a result of taking the vaccination leave. 

Employees will be required to inform their employer in advance and as soon as reasonably possible of their vaccination appointment time. Employers may request evidence of the vaccination’s appointment from their employees. However, employers are strictly prohibited from requesting:

  • Health information on any underlying medical condition
  • Record of immunization
  • Medical certificate

British Colombia

2021 Bill 3, which amends the British Columbia Employment Standards Act, was passed on 27 April 2021, and entered into effect retroactively as of 19 April 2021. The new measure will remain in force until repealed.

The new vaccination leave is paid by the employer and applies to all employees regardless of their tenure and whether they are full-time or part-time. The new COVID-19 vaccination leave is limited to three consecutive hours for each injection and the pay is calculated based on the employee’s average hourly salary over the previous 30 calendar days (less overtime pay), divided by their total hours worked.

Employees will be required to inform their employer as soon as reasonably possible of their vaccination appointment time. Employers may request evidence of the vaccination appointment from their employees. Health information on any underlying medical condition, record of immunization and medical certificate may not be requested by the employer.

Unpaid COVID-19-related leave that may be taken by all employees for as long they need remains in force to supplement the new three hours of paid leave. The unpaid leave may be used when the employee needs more than three hours for the vaccination or to accompany a dependent family member to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. 

Since the new leave is retroactive, employers should assess whether any of their employees are eligible for the paid leave due to COVID-19 retroactive to 19 April 2021. 

Saskatchewan

The province of Saskatchewan has also introduced a new employer-paid COVID-19 vaccination leave of up to three hours. The same terms that apply to British Columbia’s new leave apply to the vaccination leave introduced by the province of Saskatchewan.

Ontario

The new measure introduces paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons including vaccinations against the virus. The measure was passed on 29 April 2021, and entered into effect retroactively as of 19 April 2021. The COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, which amends Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, allows Ontario employees to take up to three days of leave payable at up to CAD 200 per day. Employers will be reimbursed for payments made within that limit.

The three days do not need to be consecutive and employees may choose (in writing) to take the vaccination leave as unpaid leave if such leave affects their eligibility for benefits under other programs.  

The new leave applies only to employees covered by the Employment Standard Act. Therefore, the new leave does not apply to independent contractors or federally regulated employees.

In addition, the leave may not fully apply to employees already entitled to paid leave under their employment contract. The period of the newly introduced leave may be reduced if an employee is entitled under their employment contract to an employer-paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons that had not been taken before 19 April 2021. 

The new leave is expected to expire on 25 September 2021, and may be taken for the following reasons:

  • Sickness due to the COVID-19 virus
  • COVID-19 testing
  • COVID-19 vaccination and side effect results, if any
  • Self-isolation due to COVID-19
  • Caring for dependents who are sick or self-isolating because of COVID-19

Employers who already provide their employees with supplemental sick leave for any of the above-mentioned reasons are not required to provide further sick leave days. However, if the leave provided is less than three paid days, the new measure would make up the difference to ensure three full days are provided to all employees.

Since the new leave is retroactive, employers should assess whether any of their employees are eligible for the paid leave due to COVID-19 retroactive to 19 April 2021. 

Quebec

The province of Quebec followed the trend toward vaccine leave by introducing Bill 798, which allows employees paid leave for up to four consecutive hours to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The short leave applies to each of the two doses that most COVID-19 vaccines require. Employees will be required to inform their employer as soon as reasonably possible of their vaccination appointment time. No effective date has been set for Bill 798. 

Manitoba

On 12 May 2021, the province of Manitoba also passed paid vaccination leave through Bill 7 (Employment Standard Code Amendment Act). Employees are now allowed to up to three hours of paid leave to receive each dose of their COVID-19 vaccination. The leave applies to all employees, regardless of their employment contract or how long they have been employed. Employees will be required to inform their employer as soon as reasonably possible of their vaccination appointment time. Employers may request evidence of the vaccination appointment from their employees. Medical certificates may not be requested by the employer as evidence.

Nova Scotia

On 13 May 2021, the province of Nova Scotia introduced a paid sick leave program allowing employees to take up to four days of paid sick leave specifically for reasons related to COVID-19. Time off may be used to get tested, vaccinated (travel time also included), or self-isolate.

Unlike the other provinces, the province of Nova Scotia does not require employers to provide such time off. Should employers choose to provide such leave, they will be able to apply to the province’s Co-operative Council for reimbursement of wages paid to employees who utilized time off between 10 May 2021 and 31 July 2021. Pay reimbursement is limited to CAD 20 per hour or CAD 160 per day, up to a total of CAD 640 per employee.

Pay reimbursement covers only employees’ wages and excludes employment insurance and pension plan contributions. Employers are able to apply for reimbursement starting from 26 May 2021, so long as they are based in Nova Scotia. In addition, the pay reimbursement program applies only if employees are not already entitled to paid sick leave under their employment contract and are not receiving benefits from other COVID-19 programs. 

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

On 10 May 2021, the province of PEI established a COVID-19 special leave fund to reimburse employers for wages paid to employees who took time off for COVID-19 related reasons, including vaccination. Funding eligibility began on 1 March 2021, and will remain until PEI is no longer under public health emergency (date unknown). Pay reimbursement is limited to CAD 20 per hour or CAD 160 per day, per employee, and up to six days total (with a limit of up to three days per week).

Similar to the province of Nova Scotia, the province of PEI does not require employers to provide such time off.

Employers are eligible for the Pay reimbursement program when:

  • Employers are based in PEI
  • Employees are not already entitled to paid sick leave under their employment contract
  • Employees are not receiving benefits from other COVID-19 programs

Additional resources

British Colombia

Alberta

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

Nova Scotia

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Quebec