Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)

Kootnekoff: B.C. ESA vaccine amendments

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

A few weeks ago, we wrote about vaccines and work.

About one week after that, on April 1, 2021, the government of B.C. announced amendments to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act to include a job-protected leave to allow employees time away from work to become vaccinated for covid-19.

The change was made through the Employment Standards Regulation by order in council OIC 216/2021 dated April 1, 2021. This in turn was possible by amendments made in 2020 to the Employment Standards Act.

The current amendment expands the list of those eligible to take covid-19 related leaves from employment.

Employees may now take unpaid time off from employment to receive vaccines or to take a dependent family member to receive the vaccine. An employee need not be full time to be eligible. The definition of dependent has some ins and outs and includes being under the “day to day care and control of the employee.”

No fixed period of time is specified for this leave.

While the leave is unpaid, the B.C. government is exploring options for employees to receive pay during this time. It is doing so through discussions with “B.C.’s business community, labour organizations and workers.”

The BC government expressly acknowledges that workers “have been hit hardest by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As a job protected leave, it means that employers must allow employees who wish to become vaccinated to take the time off of work.

It also means that the employer cannot withhold wage or benefit increases or vacation, benefit or other entitlements, or dismiss an employee, for taking such leave.

The amendments expand those who can take the job-protected leave to now include employees who, in the opinion of a medical professional, are more susceptible to COVID-19 because the employee

(i) has an underlying condition,

(ii) is undergoing treatment, or

(iii) has contracted another illness

and the employee receives, or will receive, the Canada recovery sickness benefit under the Canada Recovery Benefits Act for leave.

The amendments also include in the job-protected leave those who must care for other family members because of COVID-19. The definitions of which family members qualify are somewhat involved but are no longer restricted to children or dependent adults.

About Susan Kootnekoff:

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. Photo: Contributed

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. Photo: Contributed

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children.

Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people’s lives, including employment law.

She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, Alta.

Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013,

Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides.

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