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Vaccine mandates in the workplace

Business owners and employees alike have been wondering about the legality of vaccine mandates in the workplace, and the landscape is ever changing.

As of December 2021, assuming that the applicable industry is not mandated by the government for all employees to be vaccinated, employers and employees should know that:

  • Employees have the right to refuse to get vaccinated; however, employers have the right to implement a policy that keeps their workplace safe and maintains the health of their employees, customers, and clients.

  • To be legally exempt from an otherwise reasonable vaccination policy, the employee must show that their reason for exemption is protected under the Human Rights Code. A common ground for exemption could be for health or disability-related reasons, which employers are required to accommodate.

  • Employers are legally allowed to ask for proof of the need for an exemption­­, such as a doctor’s note that provides the minimum amount of information to support an exemption.

  • If the employee does not have a legally protected ground to support their vaccine refusal, the employer must decide whether it is appropriate to place the employee on leave, terminate the employee, or find an alternative solution to allow the employment relationship to continue, such as a modified work arrangement or regular rapid COVID-19 tests.

Ultimately, it is up to the employer to determine whether a mandatory vaccine policy is appropriate and how the business will operate to keep employees, customers, and clients safe. If in doubt, it does not hurt to speak to an employment lawyer about your rights and obligations in this ever-changing landscape.


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