Two-Thirds of Businesses to Mandate Employee Vaccinations

Sixty-two per cent of small and medium-sized Canadian businesses are planning to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees, according to a recent survey by KPMG.

“Our poll found a wide consensus among employers that vaccination is the most effective way to protect workers and customers and key to avoiding a new wave of infections and lockdowns,” says Norm Keith, a partner in the employment and labour law group at KPMG Law LLP.

As to who supports vaccine passports, 85 per cent of men were in favour compared to 79 per cent of women. Support for mandatory vaccination was also slightly higher among men (85 per cent) than women (81 per cent).

When implementing a mandatory proof of vaccination policy, a key legal consideration for employers is the actual safety risks in their workplace, particularly where there is close contact with co-workers or vulnerable people, says KPMG.

“Businesses are grappling with how to navigate the issue of mandatory vaccination and determine whether or not they are legally permitted to require their employees and, in some cases, their customers to provide proof of vaccination,” says Keith. “While some workplaces have taken steps to make proof of vaccination mandatory, others feel that unless mandated by government, it may be too onerous for them to make it a condition of continued employment. Overall, employers need to balance their health and safety legal duties with an employee’s privacy interests and human rights law protections.”

Where an existing employee is unwilling to vaccinate or provide proof of their vaccination status, Keith says employers have legal duties and responsibilities and, depending on their specific circumstances, need to exercise reasonableness to avoid constructive dismissal claims. Some key considerations include accommodating exemptions based on disability and religious beliefs; assessing whether alternative measures like rapid testing, social distancing and minimizing time worked in close proximity to others should be contemplated; protecting the confidentiality of employee vaccination data; and being flexible, listening to employee concerns, and enlisting workplace joint health and safety committees in developing and implementing policies.

“In general, we recommend that employers receive legal advice when putting in place any Covid-19 safety measures to reduce a wide range of risks,” says Keith. “This includes implementation of a vaccination policy that clearly communicates employer commitments and expectations for employee safety.”

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