What to know about workplace vaccine policies

vaccine policy
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Nelligan LawNelligan

Despite the opposition by a vocal minority, it’s become increasingly expected across all facets of Canadian society that everyone who can get vaccinated against COVID-19 do so.

Passport programs are being implemented across the country by federal and provincial governments. These are making proof of vaccination the new new price of admission to freely enjoy everyday activities like going to the gym or a movie theatre. Major sports and other entertainment venues have already closed the door to the unvaccinated.

A variety of employers, public sector and private, took the initiative earlier in the summer to declare vaccinations mandatory for their workplaces by certain dates.

The writing is on the wall, but the ending of this story is far from clear

The legal validity of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy has yet to be determined by courts and tribunals (as of the date of this publication).

“When imposing any kind of mandatory policy – even a vaccination policy – employers must make sure that their employees’ individual rights are protected,” said Malini Vijaykumar, a labour and employment lawyer at Nelligan Law.

These rights include, but are certainly not limited to, the right to fair and equitable treatment and the right to privacy.

“Employers would be best served by having clear and detailed workplace vaccination policies, whether they are mandating vaccines or not. Employees should be provided with notice of any such policy before it comes into effect,” said Jim Anstey, a labour and employment lawyer at Nelligan Law.

This of course, raises some fundamental questions, not limited to the following:

  • What bases should such a policy cover?
  • How much advance warning must employees be given?
  • How far can an employer go to police its employees?
  • What action can an employer legally take against the unvaccinated?

A vaccine policy checklist

To help you, either as an employer or employee, begin to ask the right questions and understand your rights and obligations, Nelligan Law has pulled together a handy checklist to help make the process easier: 

checklist

Navigating the vaccine spectrum

Employers who wish to implement a mandatory vaccination policy or even one that strongly encourages vaccination should should also consider the following elements:

chart

Now for the Disclaimer: This is a complex issue with multiple overlapping spheres of rights and obligations. As a result, these graphics are intended as a guide only, to outline employees’ and employers’ various avenues and options for recourse. They should not be considered a substitute for qualified legal advice.

For a more detailed explanation of the risks and competing interests associated with workplace vaccine policies, please see: https://nelliganlaw.ca/blog/employment-law/workplace-vaccination-policies-an-hr-minefield/