Legislation passed in Alberta on Wednesday night that allows for workers to receive three hours of paid leave so they can get the COVID-19 vaccine without losing wages.
Bill 71 passed just hours after Alberta’s UCP government announced its plan to bring in the provision.
“We have heard there are concerns from some workers of their ability to get the time to get the shot,” Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping said when he announced the plan on Wednesday.
“Our government intends to introduce legislation that will amend the Employment Standards Code to provide a COVID-19 vaccine leave,” he said.
After the legislation passed, Copping issued a news release Wednesday night, saying introducing the bill was the “right thing to do, and we will continue to take bold actions to protect Albertans’ lives and livelihoods while ensuring our economic recovery.”
Alberta workers cannot be fired or disciplined for using the paid leave, Copping said. It can be used twice for those accessing the two-dose vaccines.
“Hardworking Albertans want to get the vaccine, but some may not be able to schedule an appointment because of their working hours, they may not be able to afford a loss of pay, which is a barrier to getting vaccinated,” the minister said.
“As always, we encourage employers and employees to work together on scheduling appointments, minimizing the impact on employees and also minimizing the impact on employers when taking the leave.”
It will be available to both full-time and part-time workers, regardless of length of service, the UCP said.
Copping thanked Alberta workers for their courage and dedication over the past 13 months — some continuing to offer essential services, others working from home to reduce the risk of transmission.
“Getting more people immunized means we’re getting close to reopening our economy,” he said. “This helps our economy, protects lives and livelihoods.”
When he introduced the bill, Copping acknowledged the paid leave was first suggested by the Opposition and said the UCP has “had conversations with the NDP about this as well.”
In a news release issued after the bill passed, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said she is “glad that the legislature has come together to unanimously pass this critical law in a single day.”
“I know the vast majority of Alberta employers recognize that the vaccine is the best way to keep their worksites and establishments safe,” said NDP labour critic Christina Gray.
“This new law now enshrines the rights of all workers to ensure all eligible Albertans can get vaccinated as soon as possible. Alberta’s NDP was proud to propose this legislation to the government and to see through its passage.”
B.C. and Saskatchewan have passed similar bills, Copping added.