OHS Canada Magazine

Handling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the workplace

Education will be key in reducing doubt among workers


In most cases, employers will not be able to make vaccination a necessary requirement of employment, as this could amount to a human rights violation. (Getty Images)

As vaccine programs continue their rollout across Canada, many employers may not be sure how to handle the issue of vaccine hesitancy in their workplace.

While some workers might be very keen to get vaccinated, others may not be. For businesses, this raises concerns as unvaccinated staff will continue to be at risk of getting sick from COVID-19.

Puneet Tiwari, legal counsel and legal claims manager at Peninsula Canada in Toronto, says employers must know what rights workers have when it comes to vaccination and that education will be key in reducing doubt among workers.

Will vaccines be mandatory?

The Canadian government will not be making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory.

This means that businesses cannot force their workers into getting the vaccine. In most cases, employers will not be able to make vaccination a necessary requirement of employment, as this could amount to a human rights violation.

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“Employers would be wise to avoid pressuring their staff into getting a vaccine because they may not be able to due medical reasons, religious beliefs or due to a disability,” says Tiwari. “However, employers can strongly encourage eligible staff to get vaccinated once they have the opportunity.”

Guidance on COVID-19 vaccine policies for employees

How can employers handle workers’ concerns?

To ease workers’ doubts and help them make a decision that is right for them, employers can provide staff with education and resources on vaccines.

“Hosting an info session explaining the safety of the vaccine, the vaccination process and what happens after, can be useful in helping workers understand vaccines better,” according to Tiwari. “Being informed and up to date on the latest news can also help reduce workers’ worries and uncertainty.”

Employers can also consider using external trainers and e-learning tools to give workers insight on how vaccines can help during the pandemic. Workers should be reminded that they should be verifying the legitimacy and credibility of their information sources when doing independent research on vaccines.

 

What should employers do when workers refuse the vaccine?

For workers that refuse to get the vaccine, employers might have to provide accommodations up to the point of undue hardship. For example, an employer could accommodate a remote worker that refuses to get the vaccine by letting them continue working from home.

However, if returning to the office is necessary for the operation of the business, or the employee’s job duties do not allow them to work from home, it may be too difficult for the employer to accommodate them in this manner.

In such a case, the employer might have to make other accommodations.

In the workplace, an unvaccinated employee could be accommodated with a separate work area that allows them to properly maintain social distance.

Employers can also require unvaccinated workers to continue following COVID-19 health and safety measures such as wearing face masks or coverings in order to protect others in the workplace, says Tiwari.

How can employers protect their business?

To protect their business, employers should do their best to accommodate unvaccinated staff, to support employees who are still undecided about the vaccine, and to protect their workplace with continued health and safety measures.

It is important that employers give workers time to make their decision on vaccination.

They may need time to do their own research or consult a physician to determine whether this is the right choice for them. Meanwhile, employers can provide staff with news updates and education on COVID-19 vaccines.

Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.


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7 Comments » for Handling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the workplace
  1. Kevin McDonald says:

    You really seem to be conditioning the minds of the employers to push for a vaccine that no one needs for a flu with a 99.96% recovery rate, and destroy the livelihood of those who have the RIGHT to not take this poison vaccine that is killing people worldwide.

  2. Philip Conroy says:

    I understand the need to maintain human rights and each individual’s rights to refuse a vaccine, but workers that adhere to the Health Care Industry Representative (HCIR) standards may be refused entry to a health care facility if they are either deemed or actually unvaccinated. This begs the question how can an HCIR maintain employment if they can’t do their job because they can not enter a medical facility to perform their duties?

  3. Teri Campbell says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe we have a society that has trust. We have those that believe this is just a world-wide conspiracy to weed out mankind and reduce the world population (and what’s better than a pandemic where vaccination is the solution) and even getting the most educated person available for teaching will likely not produce more vaccinations in those that believe this to be true. I am flooded by information from my staff to prove the above is true (especially since I’m getting the vaccination). Education and News don’t have to prove facts as they have in the past. Follow the money is what those are told and you will get the facts. Who’s profiting is a question that is planted in the minds of those that believe in conspiracies. As a society we are long way from building trust in those that we should be able to believe in.

  4. Syd says:

    An insightful article authored by respected lawyer Norm Keith, for this publication, provides a different view on workplace vaccination requirements that would seem to contradict a number of the points made in the above article.

    Perhaps the editors could endeavour to provide a more consistent message and/or ensure authors are qualified to discuss legal issues so as to not muddy the waters any more than they already are.

    https://www.ohscanada.com/opinions/guidance-covid-19-vaccine-policies-employees/

  5. Sim says:

    If you are vaccinated then you can’t catch the virus, which is the whole point is it not , so why worry about the vaccinated people it’s the ones that choose not to who would be the ones doing all the sickness and dying and stuff.

  6. Brigitte Stewart says:

    So if an employee does not get vaccinated against Covid, but the rest of the employees are, what does it matter? The vaccinated will not get sick now right? Why does the unvaccinated still have to wear mask? Was the mask not for stopping the spread? Well if all are vaccinated then they can’t get sick again. Also, what if the unvaccinated has natural immunity, he or she already had covid, is that not good enough? Why do they still need a vaccine? Besides, isn’t it better to get natural immunity than through a vaccine that is still not approved by the FDA, for a 99% survival rate if you do get sick.

  7. Ian Morrison says:

    Brigitte,
    Respectfully please read up relevant and current information. If someone is vaccinated it does not mean that they are immune from getting the virus. We’ve been at this for so long and still people do not take the time to understand. Too much time spent trying to defeat the public good. If well over 70% of people choose to be vaccinated do you really think that only 30% of people are smart enough to have identified this “world wide plot”? Sheesh.

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