Can workers be mandated to take the COVID vaccine? – Canadian HR Reporter

Shaun Parker

Dec 7, 2020

As Canada starts to roll out COVID-19 vaccine doses, Osler associate Shaun Parker speaks to Canadian HR Reporter about some of the corresponding legal issues that employers might face. In a Q&A format, author John Dujay asks Shaun, an associate in Osler’s Employment and Labour Group, about a range of legal issues relating to the COVID-19 vaccine and the workplace. Asked about whether employers can mandate workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Shaun says that employers should proceed with caution.

“I’d be very reticent to counsel any employer to mandate vaccination for their employees and the reason is it opens up a whole host of issues with human rights considerations, as well as privacy law implications,” Shaun tells Canadian HR Reporter. “It’s a very thorny issue. Absent clear government direction that this should be mandated, I’d be very slow to do it in most workplaces.”

On the subject of what happens if employees refuse to vaccinate or disclose if they have taken it, Shaun says “it’s going to depend heavily on how the employer’s COVID-19 policies are set up, as well as the nature of the workplace.” He adds that employers should “…be very careful about taking too aggressive an approach early on.

“I could see… for the first few months of the vaccine’s roll-out, generally, an employer would want to take things slow. Cut to a year from now, after the vaccine is generally available, that may materially change an employer’s position to where they can push harder.

“You can’t force people to take the vaccine but there may be a time and place where — and depending on the nature of the industry — an employer can’t accommodate employees who are refusing to be vaccinated based on medical evidence, or medical considerations. We don’t know what that looks like now, so ‘Take it slow’ is my counsel.”

Shaun also spoke to Canadian HR Reporter about whether employers should request proof of having taken the vaccine, whether employers should offer vaccines at work and more.

Read Shaun’s full interview with Canadian HR Reporter in author John Dujay’s article, “Can workers be mandated to take the COVID vaccine?” on December 7, 2020.