The “hot topic” right now is mandatory vaccination for workers, particularly those in “close-contact” settings such as health or personal care, food service, and education. We know that some people either will not, or can not, get a vaccine. How do we manage that in the workplace?
Medical treatment, including vaccines, is protected under Human Rights legislation. You literally cannot force someone to get vaccinated. You can, however, change the rules of your workplace such that those who aren’t vaccinated will be either accommodated or terminated, depending on the situation, regardless of the “reason” that they refuse.
The first option is to accommodate the individual. This can be accomplished by establishing frequent COVID testing and requiring them to provide proof of negative result, requiring them to wear full PPE (N95 mask, face shield, gowns and/or gloves), or even changing the duties and/or hours of work so that the risk of exposure is decreased. Most times, if the employee refuses the work changes that are related to an accommodation, it can be considered a resignation although this is complex and should be discussed with a professional.
The second option is termination of employment. If the employer is not able to accommodate and/or the employer simply doesn’t want the risk, then the employee can be dismissed on a “without cause” basis. This means that they would be entitled to a severance package worth between 2-4 weeks pay per year of employment (you should seek legal advice on this), continuation of any company benefits for the duration of the Notice/Severance period, and in some cases, assistance in finding another job.
Employers can also create a policy that any new hires into the workplace must be fully vaccinated, making it a condition of employment, however they risk a Human Rights complaint from those with medical or religious exemptions.
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