Archives for February 2022

COVID-19 Vaccinations and Workplace Rights: 2022 Case Law Update


Last year, there was much discussion on whether or not employers could legally implement mandatory vaccination policies in Canada. In the first part of 2021, COVID-19 vaccines were not readily available to all Canadians, and most employers had not implanted mandatory vaccination policies yet. By August 2021, most Canadian adults had been given the opportunity to become fully vaccinated. In this context, on August 13, 2021, the Federal Government of Canada announced the requirement for all federal public servants to be fully vaccinated by the end of September 2021. The Federal Government also instituted mandatory vaccination requirements for all employees in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors by October 2021, while at the same time, requiring vaccination to travel by air or train effective November 2021. After the Federal government took the lead, many Canadian employers followed suit, and there was a rapid influx of mandatory vaccination policies implemented throughout the country in both public and private sectors (including unionized and non-unionized workforces).

There are now several Canadian labour arbitration decisions that consider whether or not mandatory vaccination policies in the unionized context are reasonable and justified. To date, most of these decisions have held that mandatory vaccination policies are reasonable and justified, illustrating an overwhelming consensus that employers can legally implement significant health and safety protections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all policies have been upheld in arbitral law. For instance, in one circumstance a labour arbitrator found a mandatory policy to be unreasonable given that workers could perform work remotely, and other measures (such as testing) could be effective in the absence of vaccination. In all circumstances the context of the workplace, along with the alternative mechanisms in the related policy, will be considered when evaluating the reasonableness of a particular policy.

This article will provide a case law update regarding the legality of vaccination policies in Canadian workplaces, updating a previous article written prior to the emergence of these decisions. While these recent decisions are directly relevant for unionized workplaces, the principles set out are useful for all employers, as the courts may consider similar principles when evaluating mandatory vaccination policies in relevant matters (such as wrongful dismissal claims arising out of the implementation of such policies). The current case law suggests that employers can implement protections against COVID-19 in the workplace, but such protections must be reasonable, balanced and relevant to the particular workplace. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers must continually consider the ongoing changes in public health direction as well as case law, as matters have continued to evolve and change quickly throughout the last two years, and so should each employers’ approach relating to health and safety measures (including mandatory vaccination policies).

Director’s Note – February 2022

Welcome to a new year of learning! As Queen’s IRC’s new Director of Professional Programs, I’m delighted to introduce our 2022 Program Planner. It’s a privilege to join this team, and I look forward to getting to know you, our participants and sponsor organizations, throughout 2022.

While we had hoped to resume in-person training here in Kingston and across Canada this winter, the ongoing pandemic means we’ll have to wait a bit longer. In the meantime, “Studio IRC” brings you virtually into our technology-enhanced classrooms, with amazing tools that our program team and expert facilitators are using to deliver immersive and interactive programs.

New year, new workplace

The pandemic has altered our work habits and work environments in a way we could have never imagined. Organizational Transformation, one of our newest programs, provides you with foundational knowledge and practical skills to guide transformation and design through pandemic and post-pandemic realities. At a time when many people are re-evaluating their careers or are feeling disconnected from their colleagues, our highly interactive Strategies for Workplace Conflicts program teaches managers and
leaders practical and essential skills for approaching everyday workplace disputes in a constructive and effective way.

Share your achievements with digital badges and certificates

This year, we’ll begin awarding digital credentialing for our programs and certificates – a way for you to share your achievements online. These can be proudly displayed on your social networks and/or as part of your email signature and will also be verifiable by current or potential employers.

Need a custom program?

This is a great year for organizations to build team skills and set new goals. Our custom programs give you space and time to explore specific opportunities and challenges with your teams, with simulation-based learning and tools to test models and ideas in a collaborative environment. Choose remote facilitation, or take advantage of on-site learning to bring multiple teams together.

It’s our 85th anniversary in October!

We’re immensely proud of our history as a pioneer in premium professional development programs. Over the years, the IRC has continually worked to transform the latest research in labour relations, human resources and organizational development into evidence-based practical programs for today’s workplace. We’re currently planning ways to celebrate this significant milestone throughout the year – stay tuned for details!
Let’s take on the new year with a refreshed optimism. We look forward to working with you to make 2022 a year of learning and growing.

Alison Darling
Director, Professional Programs
Queen’s University IRC

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