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Vaccinations & The Workplace

Posted:  Sep 1, 2021

This article represents a simplified explanation of the various aspects of employment law in British Columbia related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as associated effects on the safety of workplaces in B.C. As this article is not intended as legal advice or a substitute to a full understanding of employment law in B.C., we advise readers to visit WorkSafeBC to gain greater awareness of how to best address various safety concerns involving COVID-19 in the workplace.

 

With more than two-thirds of Canadians fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and almost three-quarters of Canadians having received one does or more, the issue of vaccines in the workplace has gained greater prominence in recent weeks. As a critical aspect of the efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, increased vaccination rates in B.C. and beyond are linked to dramatically decreased hospitalizations and deaths associated with the ongoing pandemic.

Despite the strong uptake in vaccinations, a quarter of Canadians have still not yet received a vaccine against COVID-19. Some individuals are unable to receive a vaccination against COVID-19 for medical or eligibility reasons, while others are unwilling to be vaccinated for personal reasons. Many employers are considering requiring their employees to be vaccinated in order to reduce the risk of business closures from outbreaks of COVID-19 – are they able to mandate this?

As in some other aspects of the law, this question does not have a black-and-white yes or no answer. The simple answer is most likely yes, but only if certain criteria are met by the employer. As of September 1st 2021, the provincial government has not yet passed any legislation that mandates vaccines for employees, nor has it published any guidelines that would assist employers in navigating this constantly changing legal landscape. 

It should be noted that at the time of writing, many workplaces have mandated that their employees be vaccinated in order to visit company premises, without any significant legal issues. These business span a variety of industries from telecommunications to retail, and many of them require employees to be vaccinated in order to work at an office. Employers should keep in mind that barring unvaccinated employees from their premises and requiring them to work from home if possible will likely be more successful from a legal standpoint than terminating employees who refuse to be vaccinated.  

It should also be noted that not all workplaces are one and the same when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. Workplaces that involve close contact amongst employees or with customers may have more success in demonstrating the necessity of mandatory vaccinations to WorkSafeBC if required.

Business owners need to make the best choice in protecting their company interests. The team of lawyers and legal professionals at Stevens & Company has the expertise to help guide you each step of the way as your business grows and evolves. For further information on our legal services, including corporate law, estate law, First Nations law and more, contact us today by calling us at 250-248-8220 or emailing us at sam@stevenslaw.ca to arrange your appointment.  

 

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