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Workers can't get fired now for taking time off to vaccinate, says B.C. government

Canada's largest private-sector union says new rules don't go far enough and workers shouldn't lose pay to get vaccinated
Vaccination Clinic 01 MW web
Vaccines being administered at North Vacouver's Lloyd Avenue clinic location.

The B.C. government has put in new measures to ensure people who are looking to get vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t get fired for taking time off. 

Both part-time and full-time workers are now protected under an amended Employment Standards Act so that they can take time to travel and get vaccinated, or accompany a family member to a vaccine clinic, according to a Ministry of Labour press release.

"We need to get British Columbians vaccinated if we want to put this pandemic behind us," said B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains in a written statement Thursday (April 1).

"This safeguard ensures no one will lose their job if they need time away from work to get vaccinated for COVID-19."

The leave to get vaccinated, however, does not yet require employers to pay workers while they are gone, though the B.C. government said it's consulting with the province’s business community, unions and workers to “explore options” for paid leave, according to the release.

The latest regulatory change also expands protections to workers who get sick with COVID-19 to ensure employees have access to the federal government's Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit program.

That means a worker can take time off to take care of a family member sick with coronavirus; earlier rules only applied to dependent children of adults.

'NOT ENOUGH'

Pushback against the new rules was swift.

Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, had been calling for amendments to ensure workers can safely access vaccines for weeks. 

On Thursday, the union's western regional director, Gavin McGarrigle, said he welcomed the new measures but said they still don't sufficiently protect workers at a time they're bearing the brunt of the public health crisis.

"It's not enough. The government needs to step forward and make this paid leave," he said. "Some businesses are saying, 'We can do this on evenings and weekends,' which is just ridiculous. Nobody should lose pay to get vaccinated." 

McGarrigle pointed to a recent raucous party at a restaurant at the Big White ski resort as evidence many employers are not taking the safety of their workers seriously enough.

"It’s simply employer pushback," he said. "But that is shortsighted, as we’ve seen."