As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine has begun and continues to be given around the world in different stages. While vaccinations are currently being given to essential healthcare workers, the vaccine may not be available to the general public until the later months of 2021. The existence of the COVID-19 vaccine raises a variety of questions, especially for employers. The following are employer considerations for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Requiring employees to take the vaccine
One of the main questions raised for employers is whether or not workers can be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Legal advice points towards the consideration that mandating employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine can bring up legal issues regarding human rights and privacy laws. Another consideration focuses on the Occupational Health and Safety Act, where employers have the duty to protect their workforce. This protection includes the COVID-19 pandemic.
While employers have the responsibility to protect employees against the spread of COVID-19, a variety of concerns can arise with putting in place the requirement for employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine. As the Government of Ontario has not released a mandate regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, employers should consider the implications of implementing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement in the workplace.
It has been suggested that if mandatory vaccination guidelines are provided, it will specifically outline employees who associate with vulnerable populations in healthcare. Thus far, legal advice suggests that taking the COVID-19 vaccine will be a voluntary measure for workers, once available to the general public.
While navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employers should remain aware of all legislative updates as well as consider that COVID-19 will continue to cause health and safety challenges. Employers should at all times remain compliant with Public Health guidelines as the situation further unravels.