Burnaby Board of Trade Backs Vaccination Time Off For Employees, but Urges Government Not to Add Costs of Paid Leave to Businesses

April 07, 2021 – Through our membership in the province’s COVID-19 Industry Table, the Burnaby Board of Trade is voicing support for job-protected leave for employees to take time off if necessary to get vaccinated, but is advocating against making this a new, paid obligation of employers.

In communication directly with the Ministry of Labour, we have voiced our support for vaccination leave being added to the list of job-protected leaves.  We feel a strong vaccination campaign is the only way our economy and communities will recover – and that means an aggressive roll-out by government AND a robust uptake by individuals.    Allowing people to take time to get vaccinated – without fear of negative impacts on their jobs – supports this effort of getting people vaccinated quickly.

That said, this needs to be balanced with the potential impacts on employers and that is why we do not support the government mandating this time be offered as paid time off.

We are concerned with the added labour costs a new paid-leave provision would put on businesses which have hourly workers and which would need to pay both those workers for the paid leave plus replacement workers to cover the shift while they are not at work.  While this may not seem like a significant expense for larger employers with workers on salary, for a small business with shift workers, this would be a new, unexpected labour cost to their expenses. And the sectors most likely to have these types of workers and face this expense would be precisely the same that have already been hit hardest by the pandemic and related restrictions – restaurants, hospitality, retail, fitness, etc.    We would recommend against adding this new cost and requirement onto these businesses.

In addition, it is important to note that most existing job-protected leaves are provided unpaid, including family responsibility leave, jury duty leave, bereavement leave and others.  We see little reason the COVID-19 vaccination leave should not be treated similarly.

Lastly, the need for any vaccination leave will be closely-related to the schedule of vaccination appointments – the longer the operating hours of the vaccination clinics the less likely any one individual’s appointment will have to be during their working hours.   Therefore, the Burnaby Board of Trade would strongly encourage the provincial government to work with the health authorities, local governments, the pharmacy sector, and employers to ensure that wherever vaccine clinics are established they are offered with extended opening hours to facilitate as many vaccinations as quickly as possible.