The federal government has rolled out their mandatory vaccination policy for the federal public service. In addition, it will require certain federally regulated industries, namely the air, rail and marine transportation, to establish vaccination policies by October 30, 2021.
The federal policy will apply to approximately ¼ million workers — Canada’s largest workforce — and is a good example of what might be standard as businesses attempt to navigate vaccinations in the workplace.
Details of the policy
Federal workers are required to submit an attestation regarding their vaccination status. Presumably, workers will not be required to actually show proof of vaccination, the attestation will suffice, though they must be truthful.
Workers who are unable to be fully vaccinated for human rights reasons must submit a request for accommodation. Reasons for accommodation are extremely narrow.
Workers who choose not to be vaccinated or who will not disclose their vaccination status will be placed on unpaid administrative leave as of November 15, 2021.
Workers who lie on their attestation forms will have breached the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may be terminated.
Applies even to remote workers
The requirement that federal workers be vaccinated, or get a human rights exemption, applies to the entirety of the workforce — even those who can successfully work remotely and to those working abroad. It also applies to contractors who require access to federal government worksites.
The broad application of this policy is not surprising; however, it does mean that those workers who are currently working 100% remotely must be vaccinated or receive a valid exemption in order to continue to be paid. Workers with remote positions do not arguably need to be vaccinated in order to successfully do their jobs as they do not need to access the worksite. In some circumstances, courts or arbitrators may see this broad application of a rule and the serious consequences flowing from its breach as unreasonable. However, the Covid-19 situation is novel and this policy suggests that mandatory vaccination will become the standard, whether or not there is a strong connection for a “need” for vaccination in the job.
Expansion of mandatory vaccine policies
The policy applies to the RCMP, and Trudeau has stated that other Crown corporations have been asked to implement vaccination policies like this one. The federal government also regulates the military, banks and telecommunication companies, all sectors Trudeau has specifically mentioned with respect to mandatory vaccination policies.
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