Vaccine Mandates – Still Enforceable?

As you may have heard, the Ontario government is ending the proof of vaccine mandates in certain public spaces as of today, March 1, 2022. That, along with the publishing of various studies and health official statements regarding the waning effectiveness of vaccine immunity over time and on new variants, is reason for employers to take another look at their vaccine mandates.

Vaccine mandates will still remain in certain high risk areas of work such as in healthcare and long term care. These too, could be removed though if case counts continue to decrease in the oncoming weeks and months.

Businesses still have the ability to keep their own mandates and require proof of vaccination on their own. Preliminary data shows that boosters do help broaden and strengthen protection against even Omicron. Employers want to ensure they prioritize the health and safety of their employees and customers, while legally protecting themselves as best as possible.

The best policy is always for employers to try and work with their employees to come to a mutually beneficial solution. Arbitrators in Ontario employment law cases have often sided with employers on vaccine policies when for example, employees work inside all or most of the time. When there is a work from home option, there is more flexibility for employees to not get vaccinated.

Though, as we move towards lesser restrictions and if this becomes the new normal, it might be time for employers to take another look at their vaccination policies to ensure that they impose the safest but least imposing policies. Harsher policies, might need reconsideration as the social climate around covid and vaccine changes, while still maintaining the flexibility to reconsider should another variant wreak havoc again.

Maria G. Grubisic, Associate Lawyer