Canada rules out wage reimbursement for unvaccinated public servants placed on leave during COVID-19

By on 20/06/2022 | Updated on 21/06/2022
Intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc said the federal government would “absolutely not” reimburse unvaccinated public servants for wages lost while they were on enforced unpaid leave. Photo by Carissa Rogers via Flickr

Canada’s federal government will not reimburse unvaccinated public servants who were placed on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the country’s vaccine mandate, the intergovernmental affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc has said.

The minister’s statement came shortly after the government said it would end rules requiring federal staff to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to be able to work. Those rules came into effect in October 2021 and end today, meaning unvaccinated staff placed on unpaid leave since November will now be allowed to return to work.

Several unions have demanded that unvaccinated employees be reimbursed for wages lost during periods of enforced leave.

Read more: Canada lifts COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal staff as unions press for reimbursement of lost wages

LeBlanc said the government would “absolutely not” reimburse unvaccinated public servants, adding no further comment. David Lametti, Canada’s minister of justice and attorney general, said that he felt confident the vaccine mandate rested on a “solid legal footing” that could sustain challenge.

In May this year the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) filed grievances in conjunction with Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) against the mandatory vaccination policy. PIPSC responded to the official termination of the rules last week with a statement saying these grievances “remain in effect” pending further details.

Unions unite

Just over 2,000 federal employees – less than 2% of the total workforce – were on administrative leave without pay as of 30 May this year, according to the federal government. Within the Core Public Administration, which includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it said 1,659 exemption requests were made on religious grounds, 654 on medical grounds, and 285 for other reasons.

Read more: Canada to put unvaccinated federal workers on unpaid leave

PSAC said the policy of withholding the salaries of unvaccinated public servants, who it believes should have been able to work from home, constituted an abuse of authority that put its members in both financial difficulty and job insecurity. Meanwhile, Greg Phillips, president of CAPE, said in a statement that the union “will actively pursue justice for our members”, by demanding reimbursement of unpaid salaries.

During last year’s federal election, Chris Aylward, PSAC president, said that though the union supported vaccinated requirements, he found it “very concerning” that national leaders were prepared to discipline or even fire members who did not comply. “They [the members] posed no health and safety threat in the workplace because they weren’t in the workplace,” he said last week.

PSAC, which represents over 180,000 public service workers across Canada, had previously urged its members to get vaccinated, telling them the government’s vaccination policies would likely withstand future legal challenges.

Read more: Were governments right to introduce COVID-19 vaccine mandates?  

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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