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More and more workplaces are either mandated by public health orders or are taking it on themselves to create a workplace vaccination policy which attempts to address privacy, safety, and health considerations.

While the public health mandates are clearly understood and provide workplaces with a clear roadmap for requiring employees to be vaccinated, what about workplaces that do not fall under the public health orders? Fast evolving information is producing a lot of ‘noise’ around this topic so let’s focus on the top 3 things employers should consider when contemplating a vaccination policy:

1. Safety – time and again workplace safety has been shown to be a primary consideration for employers who wish to impose certain limitations or requirements on its employees, providing that a bona fide occupational requirement can be proven. Whether it’s about instituting mandatory drug testing for heavy equipment operators, requiring constructions workers to wear specific protective gear while at a construction site, or requiring medical practitioners who work in a hospital setting to vaccinate, employers have shown a clear bona fide requirement for imposing these restrictions as they will significantly contribute to the safety of employees and the people with whom they interact. Depending on your workplace, a vaccine policy may well be a bona fide occupational requirement.

2. Culture – if your workplace setting requires daily, in person contact and you champion a culture that prioritizes safety and health then having a company-wide vaccination policy would demonstrate your commitment to upholding this culture. On the other hand, if your workplace doesn’t require your employees to attend in person, and your culture emphasizes personal accountability, it may make more sense to let your employees decide for themselves whether or not to vaccinate.

3. Human rights – according to the BC Human Rights Commissioner, vaccination status policies should be justified by scientific evidence relevant to the specific context, should be time-limited, and regularly reviewed. The policy also needs to be proportional to the risks it seeks to address and necessary due to the lack of a less intrusive alternative. While the Commissioner acknowledges that employers can, in some circumstances implement a vaccination status policy, they should only do so if other, less intrusive means of preventing COVID-19 transmission are inadequate for the setting and if due consideration is given to the human rights of everyone involved.

In other words, don’t start your process with creating a vaccination requirement policy, make it the last step. First explore other ways to accommodate your employees’ varied needs.

Your Engaged HR assignment: When considering whether to implement a vaccination policy for your organization consider the safety, culture, and human rights implications of mandating such a policy. Will it provide the results you desire, or will it simply create new barriers at your workplace?

As always, if you need help walking through these and other considerations for your specific workplace, reach out. We are here to help.


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