OHS Canada Magazine

What to include in a workplace vaccination policy

Employers should first assess whether this is a reasonable requirement for their workplace


Employers can encourage workers to disclose their vaccination status, as this information can be important for making health and safety decisions in the workplace. (myskin/Adobe Stock)

Some provinces have now implemented mandatory proof of vaccination policies.

However, there has not been much guidance on how workers will be affected by these changes.

For this reason, all businesses are advised to have a company policy on COVID-19 vaccinations, regardless of their stance.

According to Patrick Stepanian, legal manager at HR consultancy Peninsula Canada, having a company policy on vaccines will provide clarity for staff and set expectations for how the subject of vaccination is to be approached in the workplace.

Why are policies important and what should they look like?

Employers can use their vaccination policies to inform workers on how vaccination will be managed at work and to ensure appropriate conduct.

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For example, policies can remind workers that bullying or harassment will not be tolerated and advise against discussing this matter with their co-workers.

“Policies can also be used to include employees in the process of the employer fulfilling workplace health and safety obligations and to initiate conversations with workers who may require accommodations or have any concerns,” said Stepanian.

Can employers ask staff about their vaccination status?

Employers can encourage workers to disclose their vaccination status, as this information can be important for making health and safety decisions in the workplace.

However, employers should be aware that employees are not obligated to disclose this information, unless they are required to by law.

“If an employee does not disclose their vaccination status, employers should treat them as they would any unvaccinated worker and determine if any changes need to be made to ensure they can safely continue working or if they need accommodation,” Stepanian advises.

“If the worker does share their vaccination status, the employer cannot share this private information with anyone else, including co-workers or customers.”

Explaining this in the vaccination policy could help workers feel more comfortable about discussing vaccines and their vaccination status with their employer.

What rights and obligations do employers have?

Provincially regulated employers can terminate workers without cause.

“If the employer feels that there is a strong case for why information on workers’ vaccination status is necessary and that all employees need to be vaccinated, they ultimately have the final say on who continues to work for them,” said Stepanian.

Creating a mandatory vaccination policy

Before creating a mandatory vaccination policy for their workplace, employers should assess whether this is a reasonable requirement for their workplace.

Employers in industries that can provide accommodations such as remote work, and maintain health and safety even if some workers remain unvaccinated, may have a hard time justifying mandatory vaccination.

Using policies to manage workers that don’t get vaccinated

In some cases, employees will not be able to get vaccinated for reasons related to human rights grounds, such as disability. Employers will need to accommodate these workers with arrangements such as remote work, socially distanced workspaces, or whatever else may be appropriate in the circumstances.

“Employers can use their vaccination policy to lay out what accommodations might be provided and who might be exempt from a vaccination requirement, if the workplace has one,” said Stepanian.

Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer at consultancy Peninsula Canada.


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