A newly emerging topic of discussion in the sector that has been gaining widespread attention this year has been mandatory vaccination policies in Long Term Care Homes (LTCHs). On May 31st, the Province announced that, starting July 1st, it will be requiring long term care homes to have vaccination policies for their staff members. These policies will require staff members to complete one of the following three options respecting vaccines:
- Provide proof of vaccination for each dose of the vaccine,
- Provide a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, or
- Participate in an education program about the benefits of being vaccinated and the risks of not being vaccinated.
In addition to these policies, LTCHs will also be required to track and report on implementation of the policies, including overall staff vaccination rates (though the immunization status of individual staff will not be shared with the province).
What this means for Employers
The announcement from the province will generally affect employers in two ways.
First, the language of this directive suggests that employers will have the responsibility of arranging the education sessions, without any indication as to whether the government will fund or provide access to such sessions. This could create some cost for employers. The policy does, however, provide guidance and requirements for what the education sessions must cover including:
- how COVID-19 vaccines work
- vaccine safety related to the development of COVID-19 vaccines
- the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19
- the risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19
- possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination
Second, the policy does not proscribe a consequence for failing to comply with these three options. It simply states that the policy must specify the consequences that will be imposed. While it is disappointing that the Province is not providing employers in the LTCH sector the authority to impose specific consequences for non-compliance, this policy itself can nevertheless help to justify harsher consequences for non-compliance. The way that discipline will be assessed in a union context, for example, is whether the employer rule that the employee breached was reasonable. Being able to point to a government requirement is suitable evidence that a policy is reasonable to impose, and that discipline for failing to comply is a reasonable penalty.
What this means for the DS Sector
The most significant implication facing the Disability Services sector is that these requirements may soon be knocking on our sector’s door. Throughout the pandemic, restrictions have generally followed the LTCH restrictions that were in place following a lapse in time, which is something that we may expect in the near future.
PooranLaw will continue to monitor legal developments related to vaccination policies. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance in determining how these new rules apply to you or your organization, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.
Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.