B.C. Introduces a New Vaccine Leave and Other Changes to its COVID-19 Leave Provisions

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On April 1, 2021, the Government of British Columbia (B.C.) announced amendments to the COVID-19 leave provisions in B.C.’s Employment Standards Act, to expand job-protected leave to enable part-time and full-time employees to take time off to travel and receive COVID-19 vaccinations or to take a dependent family member to be vaccinated. The new leave provision does not set out a fixed duration for this leave entitlement.

The new leave is unpaid. However, the provincial government has indicated that it “will explore options to provide workers with paid leave while getting the vaccine”, through consultative engagement with B.C.’s business community, labour organizations and workers whom the province has expressly acknowledged “have been hit hardest by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”  

The amendments also expand the existing job-protected leave for reasons related to COVID-19 to fully align with the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, as changes were made to the federal programs in the months since B.C. introduced its COVID-19 related leave provisions. An employee can now take job-protected leave if they need to care for other family members because of COVID-19, and not only a child or dependent adult as previously defined.

The amendments also allow employees:

  • who have underlying medical conditions,

  • who are undergoing treatment, or

  • who have contracted another illness

to qualify for job-protected leave, provided that a medical professional is of the opinion that the employee’s medical circumstances make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and they are receiving federal recovery sickness benefits.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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