COVID-19 | COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace: Employers.

AuthorChalaturnyk, Lauren

As the COVID-19 vaccine begins to roll out across Alberta, employers may be wondering how vaccinations will be managed in the workplace.

While this is a new issue that has yet to be tested in the courts or tribunals, there are guiding principles that employers should keep in mind when considering how to implement a vaccination policy in their workplace.

Because COVID-19 presents such a serious health risk, employers must ensure that they are providing a safe and healthy work environment in accordance with their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. To date, this has included measures such as increased PPE in the workplace, physical barriers, and physical distancing measures.

However, with the introduction of vaccines, health and safety obligations must be balanced with an employee's reasonable expectation of privacy and their rights under the Alberta Human Rights Act. Making a vaccine mandatory for employees is a significant invasion of their bodily autonomy and employers must remain mindful of that fact.

In determining how to manage vaccines in the workplace, employers should consider the following:

  1. Any vaccination requirement should be clearly set out in a policy. We recommend that employers start considering what this policy should look like now, so that it is ready and employees have received plenty of notice before vaccines are available to the general public in late 2021.

  2. Employers can make vaccines mandatory but must provide for some exemptions or exceptions where an employee cannot receive the vaccine on the basis of a protected ground in the Alberta Human Rights Act (i.e. disability). Exemptions might include unpaid leaves of absence, alternative work arrangements such as working from home, or provision of additional PPE for workers who cannot be vaccinated.

  3. Employers should consider the nature of their workplace and whether mandatory vaccinations are necessary to achieve their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If there are less invasive options that still meet those...

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