Sisters and Brothers:
It has now been one year since there was a worldwide pandemic call respecting COVID-19.
In that context, there has been a great deal in the news over recent weeks about the availability of vaccines. We now know there are four (4) separate vaccines that will be made available to the public as vaccine rollout occurs across Canada. This has led to a number of questions being brought forward with respect to the impact of vaccine availability in workplaces where our members work.
This is a new and changing area of labour relations, and very few cases have been heard in this regard. We are trying to stay on top of the topic, and to respond to questions our members may have. We have developed the attached Frequently Asked Questions document as a guide to assist in answering some of these questions. If there are further questions, please contact your Business Representative or General Chairperson.
Once workers are immunized, do employers still have to follow public health measures?
Yes, employers will still need to maintain current measures in place, like social distancing, PPE, face masks, capacity limits, protective barriers, hygiene practices, staff screening and contact tracing. The IAM urges all employers to maintain sufficient supplies of PPE in the workplace and take all necessary measures to protect workers, and the public.
Can my employer make vaccinations mandatory?
Some employers may be able to, like those in healthcare, but most employers cannot make immunization mandatory. Employers can encourage their workers to get the vaccine, but making it mandatory exposes the employer to risk of accusations of discrimination, especially, if a person experiences serious side effects. Additionally, some people have medical and religious reasons that prevent them from getting immunized, and employers can’t discriminate against those persons.
Can my employer require that I get tested regularly?
Depending on the nature of you work, and whether you come in contact with the public, your employer may require employees to get tested regularly. Testing would need to meet established legal tests for workplace testing, privacy and confidentiality, relevant legislation, and where possible, terms and conditions of collective agreements.
If I choose not to get vaccinated, can my employer fire me?
Employers cannot legally fire workers who choose not to get vaccinated.
Can my employer ban me from coming to work, if I choose not to get vaccinated?
If the risk of exposure is high and community transmission is high, employers may ask unvaccinated employers to work from home, or go on leave, but they can’t outright ban them. Once restrictions are lifted, and community transmission drops off, employers would find it difficult to justify asking those who are NOT vaccinated to stay home. Vaccinations and continuing health and safety protocols in the workplace would go hand in hand.
What are obligations of employers who run vaccination clinics?
For employers that run vaccination clinics it’s advisable they conduct run-through vaccination courses on how the vaccine works, its safety, who is able to take it, the vaccination process and what happens after. Employers would also be obligated to ensure that workers complete the vaccination process correctly, which involves tracking the vaccine brand, the timing of the first dose and ensuring workers get the second dose on time.