Province introduces Special Vaccine Leave

A nurse draws a dose from a vaccine vial in Prince Albert. Photo courtesy SHA.

On Thursday the province announced that they have amended The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020 to allow for paid time off from work for an employee to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and are effective immediately. Special Vaccination Leave is similar to provisions allowing residents to vote during a general election.

The new section 6-22.1, Special Vaccination Leave, establishes that during the pandemic Workers are entitled to three consecutive hours leave during work hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Workers are entitled to more than three consecutive hours if the employer determines the circumstances warrant a longer break from work. Workers do not lose any pay or other benefits while receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

“We want to ensure that everyone in the province gets vaccinated,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said in a release.

“The amendment today ensures workers also have paid time off during the work hours to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“We are encouraging everyone to book their first available appointment just as soon as your age group opens up,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a press conference Thursday.

“Sometimes that appointment will be during the work week that’s why our government just enacted new regulations giving every employee up to three hours paid leave from work to receive their COVID-19 shot. Every employee who gets vaccinated makes every workplace just a little bit safer. So this is one more way to insure that everyone has the chance to get their shot as quick as possible,”

Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a press conference on Thursday.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) explained in a release that this announcement highlights the importance of workers being healthy and the need for paid sick leave for all workers.

“Having paid time off to be able to get vaccinated is a small victory for workers, and is something that the SFL and our affiliate unions have been pushing for,” SFL President Lori Johb said in a release.

“Workers shouldn’t have to make the choice to either take unpaid time off work or receive a life-saving vaccination.” Johb said that while the government’s decision to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated will make workplaces safer in the long run, more needs to be done immediately to prevent workplace outbreaks. Recent numbers from the Saskatchewan Health Authority show that 40 per cent of all COVID-19 outbreaks in the province have occurred in workplaces.

“The reality is that many workers will still have to wait a few months to get their vaccine, and in the meantime they are continuing to put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 when they go to work,” Johb said.

“Too many workers continue to go to work sick because they can’t afford to miss their shift. The government needs to take action immediately to ensure permanent, paid sick leave for all workers in Saskatchewan now. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

NDP Education Critic explained during a morning media availability that the opposition had just received the information but overall the idea was positive at first blush.

“I mean it’s a concern, it’s being able to take some time to go get your shot, I think on surface that’s good. Lineups have been longer than three hours recently but I think that is a move in the right direction but I’m going to have further look at the details to see if there is anything further we will have to say on that,” Beck said.

The new regulation comes into force on March 18.