Paid leave for COVID-19 vaccines could become the law in Alberta Wednesday

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A new bill giving workers up to three hours paid leave to get vaccinated against COVID-19 could become the law in Alberta as early as Wednesday night.

Proposed amendments to the employment standards code would provide a COVID-19 vaccine leave and make it illegal for an employer to fire or discipline an employee who takes time off to be vaccinated.

Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping said at a press conference Wednesday that the bill is written so that the new rules take effect as soon as the bill passes first reading, which could happen as early as Wednesday evening.

He said Albertans want to get the vaccine but some have barriers, including not being able to schedule an appointment because of their working hours or not being able to afford the loss in pay.

“This is directed at those groups of workers who may be working multiple jobs, (have a) lower income, (or) can’t afford to lose time,” he said.

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“They don’t, quite frankly, have the time to do this and we want to make sure that we reduce these barriers to them and get them vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

Earlier Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley reiterated her caucus’s commitment to doing its part to pass the legislation by waiving various bureaucratic steps that would normally be involved with tabling new bills.

“These three hours of leave will benefit hundreds of thousands of working Albertans because no one wants to log in to book their vaccine just to see that the only spots left are during their work hours, when they can’t otherwise afford to leave,” she said.

The NDP had asked for the bill to also include a provision that would also allow workers paid time off if they need to help family members get vaccinated — similar to legislation tabled earlier this week in British Columbia.

Instead, the government chose to model its legislation after a bill passed it Saskatchewan last month which only focuses on time off for workers to get vaccinated.

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