Can a Canadian employer force an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Can an employer force an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Can a Canadian employer force an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Over the past year, there has been major speculation over how much COVID-19 will impact employment and the workplace. With the vaccine roll-out picking up pace, many people are wondering if their workplace can require a mandatory vaccine.

Those Eligible for Mandatory Vaccine Policy

An employer may not force an employee to get the COVID-19 vaccine unless there is a law stating otherwise. It is well within the rights of employees to practice their own discretion when it comes to the vaccine, unless there is a mandatory vaccine policy in place.

Mandatory vaccinations may be required for front line or essential services workers. These workplaces include law enforcement, first responders etc. For example, the Long-Term Care Homes Act asks for a staff immunization program that requires all staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In this case, the employer can terminate an employee’s job if they refuse to get the vaccine. If the employee refuses to get a mandatory vaccine, it must be for a reason protected under the Human Rights Code for it to be an acceptable reason to refuse. For example, an employee may not be terminated from their duties if they have rejected the mandatory vaccination for reasons pertaining to their religion. Yet, even for those employees, it is possible for your employer to alter your work duties for the safety of others. The employer may find these measures necessary to maintain a safe workplace.

If the vaccine is not deemed mandatory for the workplace, the employer has no legal right to force the employee to engage in something they do not want to do. They can only recommend what they think would be best for the safety of the workplace.

What the employer should assess to decide on a mandatory vaccine

An employer should obtain legal advice if they are thinking about implementing a mandatory vaccine program. However, to start the process, these are the factors an employer should consider when assessing whether their workplace qualifies for a mandatory vaccine policy:

  • The level of safety risk that is involved at the workplace pertaining to COVID-19,
  • The religious beliefs of the employees,
  • The privacy implications that could arise from sharing health information concerning the vaccine,
  • Reasons why masks or other social distancing steps would be inadequate for employees’ protection
  • The consequences that would be implemented if employees were to refuse the mandatory vaccine

If you have any further questions about a mandatory vaccine policy or need legal advice about implementing the policy, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.