Are employees required to disclose their vaccination status?
Health & Safety Human Resources Legislation COVID-19 human rights privacy Vaccine
There is currently no legislation requiring anyone to get vaccinated
Now that workers across Canada are receiving vaccines against COVID-19, some might be wondering how to approach this subject in their workplace.
Getting the vaccine is a personal health decision, so do workers have to disclose this information to their employer?
“There is currently no legislation requiring workers to notify their employers when they have received the vaccine,” saidPuneet Tiwari, legal counsel at HR consulting firm Peninsula Canada. “However, providing your employer with this information can be helpful to them in making health and safety decisions for the workplace.”
Can employers ask workers if they got the vaccine?
Employers may require workers to disclose whether they’ve received the vaccine, similarly to how they can ask for other medical evidence such as sick notes, according to Tiwari.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and the vaccination status of workers can be important information to have in order to do this.
However, employers need to be careful, he said.
“It matters how much information the employer requires, as too much personal health information could result in a breach of privacy. Employers are advised to limit questions to whether the employee has received a vaccine, and which brand they received. The latter may be important in the future if certain vaccines turn out to be effective only for a limited time,” said Tiwari.
“This requirement should be clearly stated in a policy that explains what type of supporting documentation is required (for example: a document proving vaccination status).”
Can employers share workers’ vaccination information?
Co-workers and other visitors to the business might be concerned about their safety and ask whether all or specific workers on shift have been vaccinated.
“Employers do not have the right to disclose their workers’ personal health information as it is private, and they have a duty to protect the confidentiality of workers’ medical records. This sensitive information may only be shared with others where it pertains to the employer’s duty to accommodate their employee,” said Tiwari.
To assure co-workers and visitors of their safety, employers can confirm that the employee in question has been screened according to health and safety guidelines and is able to work.
What if an employee does not get vaccinated?
If the employer asks a worker if they’ve received the vaccine and they haven’t, the employer must be careful not to discriminate against them. There is currently no legislation requiring anyone to get vaccinated, therefore vaccination is not mandatory.
Employers may be able to justify vaccination as a requirement for employees depending on the type of work they do. However, employers are advised to have a company policy on vaccinations explaining health and safety concerns and why vaccination might be a necessary condition of employment.
In some cases, workers may not be able to get vaccinated because of a health condition, disability, or due to their religious beliefs. Disability and creed are grounds protected under human rights legislation.
Employers cannot discriminate against, discipline or terminate workers for refusing to get a vaccine for these reasons. Doing so may open their business to risks of discrimination, human rights or wrongful dismissal claims. The employer should explore accommodating the employee in these circumstances.
Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.