Ontario NDP wants paid time off for workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine

TORONTO — Ontario’s official opposition is calling on the government to allow workers to take three consecutive paid hours off work in order to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I would ask the premier and the government to make it easy for folks, to take the burden off, to make sure people don’t have to worry about losing pay when they book their appointment to get vaccinated,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said at Question Period on Monday.

The proposal is similar to a clause within the Ontario Election Act, which allows employees to take up to three hours of time off from work to head to the polls. Under the act, employers are prohibited from docking an employees pay during this time.

Most part-time and temporary employees don’t have access to guaranteed sick pay in Ontario.

In 2018, the Progressive Conservative government repealed legislation that would have increased minimum wage to $15 an hour and provided employees with two days of paid emergency leave.

Throughout the pandemic, politicians, advocates and union leaders have been calling for a change to the current legislation, citing the need for employees to be able to take time off if they are ill in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The government, for its part, has continuously said that a federal program—called the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)—is already available for Ontarians. On Monday, the government renewed that call.

However, it is not clear if CRSB will be available to employees who need to take time off work to get the vaccine. As it stands, the $500 per week benefit is only available to workers who are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19.

In response to the NDP proposal, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that he would be in favour of allowing certain front-line health-care professionals to take time during their work hours to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I don’t believe the front-line health-care workers should have to get their pay deducted. That’s my personal opinion. If they are within the hospital, within the health-care system, everyone else is lined up, they should be able to get a vaccination,” Ford said in Question Period.

Horwath argues that no one, regardless of their profession, should have to “choose between keeping their appointment for the life-saving COVID vaccine or losing out on wages they need to pay bills.”

“We on this side of the house are ready to pass any kind of legislation or motion the government will bring forward to make sure people are able to continue to get paid even if they have to get a vaccine.”

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello

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