Following the rollout of vaccine passports, many Canadians felt closed out of everyday life. One of the few spaces left for people to escape was the workplace. However, with the increasing uncertainties caused by the vaccine’s new and highly infectious variants, more and more employers are considering mandating it. There are many Canadians who refused this vaccine, uncertain of their rights: can an employer force its employees to receive it? What are the consequences of refusing? These questions and more are answered below.
With COVID-19, employers are having challenges keeping they’re employees healthy and happy. According to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are required to provide a safe workplace for all of their employees. Employers might have to create mandatory policies for vaccines which could have unpleasant side effects.
Nowhere in the OHSA nor the Employment Standards Act are mandatory vaccine mandates addressed. It is not necessarily illegal for an employer to create one of these policies if it is in a compliant industry. A healthcare profession, for example, can more easily claim predetermined safe practices due to mandated safety protocols.
The article explored the notion that although employers can never force an employee to receive a vaccine, they can make you choose between getting vaccinated and losing your job. New legislation in America may allow employees or else offer an exemption for history in receiving vaccinations which puts them in risk in receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. Some argue that this discourages employees from receiving shots because employers may penalize them when required to watch over staffs’ safety. However, it also incentivizes companies to provide vaccinations for
The short answer is “yes” but the more complicated question is “how”? There are two ways an employer can terminate and employee: with cause or without cause.
In the non-unionized context, with cause means the employer has a reason for firing the employee related to their misconduct. This is usually something rather serious that damages the employment relationship beyond repair (e.g. theft, insubordination, fraud, assault, etc.). In unionized workplaces, ‘with cause’ is defined by the collective agreement.
For an employer to fire an employee for refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine, that employer must come up with a legitimate vaccination policy outlining the consequences of such an action. A legitimate vaccination policy will be easier to prove in some industries than others. But a nurse taking care of immunocompromised patients who refuses to get the vaccine will likely face termination for cause in much more situations than any other type of worker in any other industry and profession and occupation and economic level and upbringing and education
In the health care industry, employers have a mandate to ensure their employees’ compliance with any vaccine mandates. Firing an employee without cause is often done for payroll cuts, restructuring, or in this case compliancy to a vaccination mandate. Except for refusing a vaccination on the basis of a protected race code in the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers can terminate employees who do not comply with vaccine mandates, but must provide it.
Your employer can force you to get the Covid-19 vaccine– much like termination– if they have a legitimate policy that mentions discipline for refusing to comply explicitly. Your industry may be difficult for them to justify their policy, though, so it would be hard for them to justify disciplining you.
Employers cannot mandate that employees get the COVID-19 vaccine as it is dangerous and difficult, if not impossible, for employees to comply due to religious or medical reasons. Employers must accommodate these individuals who seek accommodation as per the Ontario Human Rights Code. Accommodation will vary depending on the individual and could include: working from home, maintaining physical distances with other people, and working alone in a separate space.
According to the Health Protection and Promotion Act someone eligible for accommodation or exemption from prescribed policy must provide evidence that they are “entitled to be exempted,” which is likely if their employers require them to get the Covid-19 vaccine for employment purposes.
Finally, political beliefs are not respected by the OHRC and neither are beliefs that CODV-19 is a “hoax”. Even if you truly believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is harmful or “too new”, that heard immunity is more than enough protection, or if you are afraid of the potential side effects, these reasons alone are not enough to support a human rights claim.
Please note that this article is only to be used as general information and it does not constitute legal advice. We encourage employers and employees to contact us directly to better understand vaccination-related issues and seek legal advice to their questions.
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