As many employers gear up to return employees to the workplace, 62 per cent of Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses are making or plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees, finds a new poll by KPMG in Canada.
"Businesses are grappling with how to navigate the issue of mandatory vaccination and determine whether or not they are legally permitted to require their employees and, in some cases, their customers, to provide proof of vaccination," says Norm Keith, Partner, Employment and Labour Law, KPMG Law LLP, and a leading advisor in Canadian safety law. "Our poll found a wide consensus among employers that vaccination is the most effective way to protect workers and customers and key to avoiding a new wave of infections and lockdowns."
The KPMG poll also found that the vast majority of businesses support mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports to avoid another lock down.
"With so many different approaches across the country, Canadian companies are seeking legal guidance and advice on vaccination policies for their workplaces," says Mr. Keith. "While some workplaces have taken steps to make proof of vaccination mandatory, others feel that unless mandated by government, it may be too onerous for them to make it a condition of continued employment. Overall, employers need to balance their health and safety legal duties with an employee's privacy interests and human rights law protections."
When implementing a mandatory proof of vaccination policy, a key legal consideration for employers is the actual safety risks in their workplace, particularly where there is close contact with co-workers or vulnerable people. As well, some workplaces are a higher safety risk, such as health care or long-term care for the elderly, education, childcare and emergency services.
As Mr. Keith points out, a challenging situation may arise when an existing employee is unwilling to vaccinate or provide proof of their vaccination status. Employers have legal duties and responsibilities and, depending on their specific circumstances, need to exercise reasonableness to avoid constructive dismissal claims. Here are some key considerations for employers:
"In general, we recommend that employers receive legal advice when putting in place any COVID-19 safety measures to reduce a wide range of risks. This includes implementation of a vaccination policy that clearly communicates employer commitments and expectations for employee safety."
KPMG polled 505 Canadian small- and medium-sized owners and decision-makers between August 6 and August 15. The online survey of business owners and decision-makers were all drawn from Delvinia's premier online research panel, Asking Canadians, through the Methodify platform.
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