COVID-19 and the Workplace

Intro

Chris

As of this month, over 80% of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ashley

Thatís a lot! But it also means that there are still people in Canada who havenít been vaccinated.

Unvaccinated workers are concerned that they may not be allowed to continue to work. And workers who have been vaccinated may be concerned about their own safety if their co-workers are unvaccinated.

Letís talk about how vaccine compliance affects the workplace.

Chris

Sounds good!

CCOHS Podcast Intro Music

Ashley

Welcome to CCOHS Podcasts. Today weíre discussing COVID-19 vaccine compliance and how it affects the workplace.

Chris

We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but employers are responsible for taking every reasonable precaution to protect their workers from illness and injury. †

Letís talk about the vaccination itself and why itís so important for workers.

Ashley

Good idea!

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect us against COVID-19.

By being vaccinated you lower the risk of infection† not only for yourself but also those who canít be vaccinated, are too young to receive vaccines such as infants, and those who only develop partial immunity from the vaccine.

When youíre fully vaccinated, you help to create community immunity, sometimes call herd immunity. You protect both yourself and those around you, and lower your chances of a severe outcome.

Highly contagious diseases, like COVID-19, need high vaccination coverage to achieve community immunity.

Chris

Are there rules around vaccine compliance?

Ashley

Well, the Government of Canada requires that federal public servants, as well as workers in federally regulated sectors such as air, rail and marine transportation be fully vaccinated, unless they have a valid exemption. Crown corporations and federally regulated workplaces such as banks, telecommunications, and road transportation have the same requirements.

Chris

You mentioned ďhaving a valid exemptionĒ. What does that mean?

Ashley

Right now, exemptions vary from province to province, but typically accepted exemptions are for a religious or medical reason. If a worker has medical concerns, they should speak with their physician about the different COVID-19 vaccines that are available.

Chris

So, if a worker isnít in the public service or a federally regulated industry, is being fully vaccinated required to work?

Ashley

Currently, Canada is offering the COVID-19 vaccine on a voluntary basis to anyone in Canada who is eligible and would like to receive the vaccine.

However, there are a number of factors that employers need to consider when determining whether they require their workers to be fully vaccinated. For example, there may be† health and safety reasons to require vaccination, especially for workers† in high-risk environments or for those that work with vulnerable populations. Itís a complicated subject, that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Chris

Even when itís not mandatory, employers can strongly encourage eligible staff to get vaccinated?

Ashley

Thatís right. And itís also important to consider worker privacy, stigma, and potential resistance.

Employers can provide workers with reliable information and resources on vaccines, to help them make a decision that is right for them. Both CCOHS and the Government of Canada websites have the latest information, and it can be easily shared.

Chris

So, for workers who have valid exemptions, employers might have to provide accommodations up to the point of undue hardship. For example, an employer could accommodate a remote worker who cannot get the vaccine by letting them continue working from home?

Ashley

Yes. However, if returning to the office is necessary for the operation of the business, or the workerís job duties do not allow them to work from home, the employer may not be able to accommodate them in this manner. If the employer has taken all reasonable precautions to ensure the workerís health and safety, then workers are obligated to return to work.

 

Chris

Employers can also require workers who are not vaccinated to continue following COVID-19 health and safety measures such as wearing face masks or coverings to protect others in the workplace.

Ashley

For the workers who do plan to get vaccinated, employers can support them by providing them with time to attend vaccination clinic appointments. Many provinces have passed legislation that provides workers with paid leave to get vaccinated during work hours. Employers can also provide sick leave time to workers who experience side effects following a vaccination.

Chris

And regardless of how many workers are vaccinated, itís important to maintain workplace COVID-19 controls until recommendations and restrictions are lifted by local public health authorities. These include wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene, improving ventilation, using barriers, and maintaining physical distancing.

Ashley

Definitely! Itís important to have multiple control measures in place, including vaccination.

Itís a reality that workers may have different reasons for not wanting to get vaccinated.

Itís also important to remember that whatever the reason, they talk directly to their employer about the situation.

Chris

For more information and resources on COVID-19 please visit ccohs.ca and follow the links on the homepage.

Ashley

Thanks for listening!