As more people return to the office, COVID-19 remains a major consideration in how business is conducted. In fact, there’s an increasing number of organizations considering the implementation of a vaccination policy for their staff.
Ultimately, the policy should:
- Be easy for employees to follow
- State the reason for its existence
- List accompanying procedures
- Be carefully planned with a level of compassion
Look to health and safety committees, operational representatives, individuals with customer lines of sight, and union representatives for their expertise.
While there is no cookie-cutter approach to designing a policy, updates should be aligned with legislation and reflect the needs of the organization.
There are three key considerations to account for when creating a vaccination policy.
1: The safety of internal and external stakeholders:
Under the safety legislation across provinces, employers are responsible for the safety of their employees. Early in the pandemic, safety protocols included social distancing, masking, hygiene, and managing outbreaks. With the nation-wide uptake of vaccines, employers are now looking at how this will contribute to a safer working environment.
As with any safety policy consideration, employers need to consider the risk factors to their stakeholders. Identifying risk factors provides a basis for the type of policy required.
In the past, safety protocols included regular testing, use of personal protective equipment, remote working, and modified shifts. Employers should consider whether they can further mitigate these risks by implementing a vaccination policy.
2: Applicable legislation that governs the business:
The federal government has mandated full vaccination for all employees who are federally regulated including air, rail, and marine transportation sectors. This is not a choice for employees. Other industries such as health care, education, and childcare workers have been provincially directed.
Other industries such as construction, banks, and professional services are moving ahead at an organizational level and debating whether to implement a full vaccination policy or whether they can sustain employees who have chosen not to vaccinate.
3: Selecting the right vaccination policy for your organization:
Without government legislation to dictate vaccination policy, organizations are left to decide what kind of policy is right for them:
- Full vaccination required of all staff without exceptions: rare and not usually recommended as this approach doesn’t allow for accommodations where acceptable and opens the organization up to legal risk
- Full vaccination required with exemptions: where accommodation is only provided in cases where medical, religious, or other exemptions are protected under the province’s human rights legislation
- Full vaccination required with accommodations: where exemption is provided in the cases mentioned above and for those who don’t want to have the vaccine for other reasons
Before deciding which policy to implement, organizations should consult with safety experts and their legal team to ensure they’re not at risk of legal action in the future.
- Clearly communicate:
- The reason for the policy to employees
- The protocols for exemption and accommodations are being made
- The timeline and consequences of non-compliance
- If your organization will accept verification of vaccination through self-declaration or by showing proof-of-vaccination
- Limit access to employees’ vaccination status, and any associated medical information based on governing privacy legislation and ensure access is available only to those who need it to do their jobs and only for as long as the information is required
- Ensure that the policy is continually reviewed and updated based on changing circumstances, legislation, and information
- Ensure employees are aware of how they can voice concerns and that they feel comfortable doing so
Written by Wanda Loewen – Manager, HR @ Your Service, People First HR, a People Corporation company