Workplace vaccination requirements haven’t been seen in Canada, says labour lawyer

As COVID-19 vaccinations open up to more and more Manitobans, some may be wondering if their decision to get vaccinated — or not — might affect their employment.

Benjamin Hecht, a partner at Winnipeg’s Pitblado with decades of labour and employment law experience, told 680 CJOB that businesses requiring their employees to get the vaccine would be an unprecedented step — something he hasn’t seen anywhere in Canada so far.

Employers, he said, can do the right thing by providing all the tools necessary to support their workers while they get the shot.

“(Employers could say) ‘We will give you the time off to get the vaccine. If you have side effects, we will give you paid time off for a day, or a half a day, whatever it takes.’

“We need people to get vaccinated, and it’ll be more challenging if employers don’t assist people — in a reasonable way — to get the vaccine.”

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“In our workplace, we told our employees, ‘if you need assistance with transportation to get the vaccine, we will assist with that,’” he said.

Read more: Manitoba drops COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to 45, everyone 12 and up likely eligible by May 21: official

Hecht said legislation requiring proof of vaccination before entering certain settings isn’t uncommon.

Some Canadian provinces, like Ontario and New Brunswick, require that for public schools, but there are exemptions for medical and philosophical or religious reasons.

Certain front-line industries, Hecht said, like health care, will potentially be next to create vaccination rules as more Canadians get the shot.

“They will want to assure their patients that their staff are vaccinated, and that they’re not going to get sick within the facility,” he said.

“Perhaps the facility might say ‘we don’t want you in here without the vaccine.’ I think that might be more challenging, but certainly, you can imagine in health care, that may be coming.”

The province’s most recent efforts to get Manitobans vaccinated were expanded Wednesday, when public health officials announced all Manitobans aged 12 and over should be able to book a shot by May 21.

“We’ve reached another important milestone in immunizing Manitobans,” said Johanu Botha, co-lead of the province’s vaccine implementation task force, noting more than 40 per cent of eligible Manitobans have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

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“As more vaccine arrives in our province that means our operations are also accelerating in response.”

–With files from Shane Gibson

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