As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out in Canada, all provinces are taking steps to promote it by giving some paid time off for vaccination. Saskatchewan has recently announced that they will be amending their employment legislation to allow for three hours of paid time off for employees to be vaccinated. Currently, Ontario has not made any announcements that it will be following suit. Premier Ford, however, has indicated his support for allowing front-line health care workers paid time off to be vaccinated.
The support for paid time off for vaccination sends a clear message of the importance of voluntary vaccination, and the efforts to reduce any potential barriers in achieving widespread vaccination. This brings to question whether Ontario will be proceeding with some form of paid time off for vaccination, or at a minimum job-protected time off. Some Ontarians, especially those with lower income, have indicated that taking time off to be vaccinated could be a real barrier to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the absence of a contractual right in their employment contract, Ontario does not provide for a protected or paid time off for vaccinations. Employees may be entitled to use unpaid sick days to receive the vaccine, however, that does not address the issue of lost income due to vaccination. Some employers have voluntarily offered to allow their employees to receive their vaccine during working hours in an effort to speed the return to in-office work, or where employees are required to work in close quarters, for example.
Employees should be aware of their rights regarding COVID-19 vaccination and safety in the workplace. While we know that most employers will not be able to justify mandatory vaccination for their employees, government support and employer cooperation will likely be an encouragement for employees to get vaccinated when presented with the opportunity.
If you are an employee or employer seeking answers regarding COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace, it is advisable to seek advice from an experienced employment lawyer. To better understand your entitlements and explore the viability of a claim during these unprecedented times, we encourage employees to seek legal advice. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you’re looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.