COVID-19 Vaccinations and Your Staff: Top 5 Legal Q&As

Colin Edstrom, employment lawyer at Pushor Mitchell LLP, answers the top five questions from employers and and their staff about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Categories: Employee Benefits
Apr 28th, 2021 | By: CapriCMW

With the national rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations underway across Canada, employers are wondering how best to handle the issue internally. While most of us are looking for a safer workplace environment, encouraging your staff to get vaccinated might not be as simple, from a legal perspective, says Colin Edstrom, workplace lawyer at Pushor Mitchell LLP.

“Vaccines in the workplace engages many different areas of law,” he says. “This includes privacy law, human rights law, occupational health & safety (OH&S) and common law or employment/collective agreements.” While provincial governments have announced they will not be mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, Edstrom says he has been inundated with questions from employers and their staff.

Below, Edstrom answers some of these burning questions…

Top 5 Legal Q&As:

Q: CAN I COMPEL MY EMPLOYEES TO GET VACCINATED?

A: Very unlikely, regardless of industry. However, in certain cases, “vaccinate or mask” or testing policies may be appropriate. Your business needs to consider whether employees are in a safety sensitive workplace where they’re exposed to vulnerable individuals (like healthcare). Also consider employer liability if a staff member has an adverse reaction.

Q: WILL EMPLOYEES STILL HAVE TO WEAR MASKS AFTER VACCINATION?

A: Yes, masks are currently mandatory across Canada in workplaces and indoor settings.

Q: WHAT IF A STAFF MEMBER REFUSES TO WEAR A MASK AFTER VACCINATION?

A: Employees must follow OH&S guidelines and masks are currently mandatory.

Q: DO MY STAFF NEED TO TELL ME IF THEY GET VACCINATED?

A: If a valid vaccination policy is in place (for example for health care workers), then yes. Otherwise, it’s unlikely they need to disclose this as it could be seen as an unreasonable intrusion into an individual’s privacy.

Q: CAN MY STAFF REFUSE TO WORK WITH UNVACCINATED EMPLOYEES?

A: Under OH&S legislation, it’s very unlikely. While employees have the right to refuse unsafe work, if your business is following proper OH&S protocols it’s not considered an unsafe environment.

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