September 14, 2021
While there is currently no federal or provincial legislation in Canada requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all employees, 62% of Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses are making or plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees. More and more businesses and organizations are releasing such policies with more certainly to come.
Ultimately, employers have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees. Although implementing a mandatory vaccination policy poses potential legal risks, such as human rights and privacy claims, most employers are willing to move forward. We are currently working with many employers on this issue, including how to accommodate employees who choose not to vaccinate. Let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations for employers right now.
Human rights legislation prohibits discrimination in employment on certain grounds, including disability, sex and religion. If an employee refuses to comply with mandatory vaccination with justifiable reason, the employer must make accommodations. These can include working remotely or more specific measures like increased PPE or modified work hours.
In most Canadian provinces, an employer may collect, use or disclose personal employee information only with their consent and for reasonable purposes. In order to enforce a mandatory vaccination policy, employers would be required to ask employees if they are vaccinated. This qualifies as the collection of personal information, which means that the employee would have to consent but also that the employer must demonstrate that they are collecting the information for a reasonable purpose.
Even so, it could be argued that asking if employers are vaccinated is meant to protect the health and safety of ALL parties involved and that is not an interference with anyone’s privacy rights.
An employee who refuses to be vaccinated because of a medical condition or religious belief cannot have their employment terminated as that would be considered discrimination under the human rights code. But, the reality is that employers can invoke a “without cause” termination as long as the proper severance is paid.
Ensuring you have the necessary policies in place that are in line with the latest legislative requirements is your obligation to your people. True North HR Consulting is working closely with employment lawyers to help develop, review and implement vaccination policies for employers. Do you need help with your policies? Let’s work together! Take advantage of our FREE 1-hour discovery call to learn more. Book now at www.truenorthhr.ca