Paid time off for a COVID-19 vaccination? Depends on the workplace

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Large businesses in a range of industries are providing paid time off for staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

CBC reached out to some of the bigger workplaces across Ontario: banks, grocery stores, auto and food manufacturers, and the Ontario Public Service, some of which also operate in other provinces. All but one said they are paying for employee time off, similar to an election day. 

  • Scroll down to see a list of companies and their Ontario vaccination policies

Resolute Forest Products, a pulp and paper manufacturer in northwestern Ontario with 900 employees, was the lone employer CBC spoke to that isn’t giving paid time off during the work day.

“We believe that vaccination centres offer enough flexibility to our employees, thanks to extended opening hours and availability on weekends,” said Resolute’s Louis Bouchard in an email. “We feel comfortable that everybody will have an equal opportunity to be vaccinated.”

In contacting a dozen companies, CBC found a patchwork of vaccination policy.  

George Weston Ltd., the company that runs Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, Independent, Zehrs and other grocery stores, offers its nearly 100,000 employees three paid hours to get vaccinated during a shift. George Weston Ltd., is among the companies CBC contacted that maintain similar vaccination policies for employees in other provinces.

The long lineup at a Loblaws pharmacy in Ottawa to get the vaccination. The company that runs Loblaws is giving employees three paid hours off to get their shots during a shift or retroactive pay if they already had an appointment during a shift. (CBC)

Walmart, by comparison, is giving its about 51,000 Ontario employees one hour per dose, while RBC pays for four hours per dose for its 40,000 Ontario employees, including students and contractors. Scotiabank, with 30,000 Ontario employees, promises “any time spent during working hours travelling to or from, or attending a vaccination appointment, will be paid.” 

Meanwhile, the Ontario Public Service encourages its 64,000 employees to “make every effort” to book a vaccination appointment outside work hours. If that’s not possible, employees are told to work with their manager to figure out flexibility.

Magna International and Maple Leaf Foods have had on-site pop-up vaccination clinics, offering shots during the work day, while Walmart employees who work at stores can get vaccinated “on the clock” inside the company’s pharmacies.

None of the workplaces CBC contacted are making vaccinations mandatory, instead “encouraging” it and educating employees.

Ontario Morning from CBC Radio6:02Here’s what Ontario workplaces are giving vaccine time off

Do you get time off work to go get your COVID-19 vaccination? Depends on your workplace. Haydn Watters shares who is and who isn’t offering paid time off to go get the shot. 6:02

Vaccinations valid under sick leave policy

Vaccinations are included in the three days offered by the province’s new paid sick-leave plan. Some employers are taking advantage of that, including Maple Leaf Foods.

Not everyone is covered under this provincial plan, though. The Ontario Ministry of Labour said it applies to any employees that fall under the Employment Standards Act, including temporary foreign workers and temporary help agency employees.

However, independent contractors and federally regulated employees do not qualify.

Simran Prihar, labour and employment lawyer for Goldblatt Partners, worries precarious employees won’t be given time off, particularly those in non-unionized work environments or who are part time.

“It’s just an individual going to their manager to ask for the time off and being denied,” she said. “There are not avenues that will provide that employee an easy way to have paid time off to do this absent an employer having the good will and willingness to provide that.”

Restaurant staff from Jackalopes received their vaccinations at a clinic at the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), says every employee should be able to get vaccinated during work hours, especially given how hard it has been to get appointments in some parts of the province. He represents 215,000 workers across Canada, mainly federal public sector employees.

“We wouldn’t want a manager out there saying, ‘What do you mean, you’ve got to go, 2 o’clock on a Thursday?,'” he said. “You shouldn’t suffer a financial loss because you want to go and get vaccinated.”

The Ministry of Labour says any employee who feels their employer is not following the rules — for example, by not offering vaccination time under this plan — should file a claim with the ministry online.

If the ministry finds the workplace didn’t follow the rules, it could be fined hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars.



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