New job protected leave for COVID-19 vaccination

On April 1, 2021, the British Columbia government announced changes to the Employment Standards Regulation, B.C. Reg. 396/95 (the “Regulation”) which extend the existing “COVID-19 Leave” protections in the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) to include two additional pandemic-related circumstances, including COVID-19 vaccination.

In March 2020, the BC ESA was amended to allow employees to take an unpaid, job-protected leave of absence if they are unable to work due to various COVID-19 related reasons (ESA s.52.12). We discussed these provisions in a prior update.

As a result of this most recent amendment, employees are now permitted to take unpaid, job-protected time away from work for the following COVID-19 vaccine-related reasons:

  1. To be vaccinated against COVID-19; or
  2. To assist a dependent who is being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The B.C. government announced in an accompanying press release that they will explore options regarding a paid leave to allow employees to receive a vaccine. However, at this time the instant amendments provide only for unpaid leave.

These amendments also extend COVID-19 related leave to an employee who is more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.  Specifically, the employee must meet the following criteria to be eligible for this new extension of COVID-19 leave:

  1. In the opinion of a medical health officer, medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse, the employee is more susceptible to COVID-19 because the employee has an underlying condition, is undergoing treatment or has contracted another illness and
  2. The employee receives or will receive the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

Finally, COVID-19 related leave was previously available to employees providing care to an “eligible person” for reasons related to COVID-19. This amendment has extended the scope of an “eligible person” beyond a child or dependent adult to include other family members under the employee’s care. Overall, these additional changes were intended to bring the ESA and Regulation into alignment with the provisions of the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.



Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.