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Should we get paid time off to go get vaccinated?

Last Updated Feb 24, 2021 at 8:54 am MDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) – The Alberta Federation of Labour is aiming to knock down barriers for employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

The AFL wants the province to legislate four hours of paid leave for workers to get the jab, as they fear companies may not follow Premier Jason Kenney’s mantra of embracing personal responsibility and doing the right thing.

“His argument about personal responsibility and trusting Albertans to do the right thing–we’ve heard this over and over again from this government during the pandemic and we’ve seen the results. Some people do and some people don’t, and in this case, some employers will and some won’t,” explained Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“If you consider it your civic duty to go and vote, this is something that is quite similar,” said Thomas Tenkate, professor of occupational and public health at Ryerson University.

How much time off is needed? Starbucks is reportedly offering employees two hours, while BMO is paying for three. Health experts advise the more time, the better.

“The actual vaccination process is pretty quick, but it’s usually the lineup and how long it takes to get into the building, and the various other forms that people have to sign beforehand,” added Tankate.

Other subsidies could be used by the government to help businesses that are assisting in increasing vaccinations rates.

“If you’re a small business with maybe two or three employees, having someone take half the day off might be a substantial impact on them.”

Even if governments are hesitant to legislate paid leave for vaccinations, reluctant companies may be compelled to adopt the practice if others do.

“This works on a peer pressure perspective, and the more workplaces that get involved, puts more pressure on the workplaces that might be resisting this to come on board,” explained Tenkate.

CityNews reached out to the Alberta government for comment but has yet to hear back.

The union fighting for vaccine paid leave says it’s not just about their members, such legislation would be a signal to those on the fence about rolling up their sleeve.

“If the government were to say ‘Not only is this a priority but we’re going to help pay for it and you’re not going to be out of pocket if you go get it’, this will send a strong signal that this is something that should be done,” added McGowan.