Manitoba proposing three hours of paid leave for workers to get their COVID-19 vaccine
WINNIPEG -- The Province of Manitoba is proposing a three-hour paid leave for workers in the province to go get vaccinated for COVID-19.
On Tuesday afternoon, Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the change to the Employment Standards Code would allow Manitobans to book vaccine appointments during the workday without losing wages.
"We want Manitobans to be able to be confident to book COVID-19 vaccinations during workdays or work hours without worrying that they are going to lose out on regular wages," Fielding said.
Under the changes, Fielding said employers would be required to give employees up to three hours of paid leave for each vaccine dose the employee requires. More unpaid time would be allowed for employees who require more travel time or who suffer from vaccine side effects.
"We obviously don't know if there will be booster shots in the fall, but this would cover that off as well," Fielding said.
He said the paid leave would be set at the employee's regular wage or an average wage for employees with varying wages such as commission.
"Employers may ask employees to provide them with reasonable verification of the leave, but not a doctor's note because we don't want to add additional burden to medical officials and doctors while we deal with COVID-19," he said.
Fielding said this proposed paid leave is similar to other paid leave programs in the western provinces.
The proposed changes are welcome news to the Manitoba Federation of Labour – which had called on the province on Friday to give workers this paid leave.
"We are glad it is happening now – it is the right thing to do," said Kevin Rebeck, the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.
While he applauded the province for moving to legislate the paid vaccination leave, he said the same approach is needed for paid sick leave.
The province announced Friday it would be offering employers up to $600 per employee for up to five full days of sick leave related to COVID-19.
Rebeck said the program is voluntarily not legislated, meaning employers are not required to provide the sick days.
"I think the idea of us going back to the days of contagious co-workers or a sneezing cook preparing a meal need to be a thing of the past," Rebeck said.
"That will only be a thing of the past if people have guaranteed legislated paid sick days. This government should do the right thing and make that move next."
When asked why the province is not legislating the paid sick leave program, Fielding did not give a specific reason. He said he believes businesses will embrace the voluntary program.
Fielding said more than half of the employers in Manitoba have some form of sick leave for their employees.