COVID-19: The Vaccine & “Return-to-work” Policies

  • February 02, 2021
  • Taran Hoogsteen

As the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines begins in Ontario, there are many workers who either remain working from home or waiting on their places of employment to re-open. Assuming that broader distribution of the vaccines results in an easing of government restrictions to allow employees to return to their workplaces, employers may start considering how to implement “return-to-work” policies to avoid scrambling at the eleventh hour. As one aspect of these policies, many employers are wondering if they can require their employees to be vaccinated. There is currently no law in Ontario requiring an adult to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and with the vaccines in short supply, only a small portion of the population even has the opportunity to be vaccinated. Regardless, these types of policies are certainly being considered by various levels of government, and talk of “vaccine passports” has already been floating around.

If no provincial vaccine mandate is implemented, individual employers will have to take it upon themselves to determine how to introduce employees back into their workplaces in light of legal and social responses to the pandemic. With so few vaccines distributed thus far and the provincial lockdowns looming for the foreseeable future, it will likely be some time before employers will need to start implementing such policies. However, these policies promise to be complex, requiring a fine balancing of the rights of each stakeholder. This article will discuss some of the considerations for employers when creating these “return-to-work” policies.