August 26, 2021
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The Alberta Medical Association has called for mandatory vaccines for health care workers, adding to a list of associations and groups making mandatory vaccines a priority.
On Aug. 24, Calgary Sports and Entertainment announced, starting Sept. 15, attendees to live and major sporting events at the Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon stadium would be required to provide proof of vaccinations. Proof of vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests must also be presented at Edmonton Oilers games.
All on the heels of an Aug. 13 announcement from the Federal Government with the intent to require vaccinations for federal public service as early as the end of September.
In addition, as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October, the Government of Canada will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated. The vaccination requirement will also extend to certain travellers. This includes all commercial air travellers, passengers on interprovincial trains, and passengers on large marine vessels with overnight accommodations, such as cruise ships.
With Alberta seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Alberta Government announced Aug. 13, that mandatory masking orders in publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-shares would continue through Sept. 27 as well as mandatory isolation of 10 days for those with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result and continued testing at assessment centres for anyone with symptoms.
Measures were originally scheduled to be eased Aug. 16 but government announced the extension to provide “additional time to monitor severe outcomes of COVID-19 and increase immunization rates,” as stated in an Aug. 13 press release.
Government encourages Albertans to continue booking appointments for first and second doses to ensure full effectiveness and long-lasting protection. To book vaccinations visit alberta.ca/vaccine or find available appointments with your local pharmacy.
As well, Government is offering vaccination incentives through the Open for Summer Lottery.
Changes in Alberta that took affect on July 29, continue to remain in place. They include:
- Contact tracers are no longer notifying close contacts about exposure to COVID-19. Individuals are asked to tell their close contacts when informed of their positive result. All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
- Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing care and acute care facilities. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
- Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended.
But what does all this mean for the rights of employers and employees?
An Alberta Government “COVID-19 as a workplace hazard” (updated July 30, 2021) bulletin says employers should consider seeking legal advice on issues and laws relating to human rights, labour and employment, privacy, health information and occupational and health and safety before asking for proof of vaccination or implementing mandatory vaccine requirements.
With regards to employer-initiated vaccination mandates the topic is one of debate, however employment standards can provide some guidance. Employers can have mandatory vaccination policies and terminate staff for not being in compliance as long as it does not infringe on their human rights (ex: medical or religious reasons for non-vaccination) and its a without cause dismissal with appropriate severance paid.
Another emerging issue is staff not wanting to share a workplace with someone who is not vaccinated, or who may refuse to attend work due to COVID introducing a perceived threat to health in the workplace. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation can provide guidance in responding to this issue. Employees have the right to refuse dangerous work and report the unsafe conditions to their supervisor. OHS requirements state it’s up to management to decide if a risk exists and to provide appropriate accommodations if one does. If the complainant employee disagrees, they may file a complaint with the ministry and an investigation will occur.
In another Alberta Government bulletin, “Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Workers: Respiratory Viruses” (updated July 1, 2021) it states employers must assess and control the hazard of respiratory viruses in the workplace and repeat a hazard assessment when there are changes to the working conditions or work process to ensure any new or potential hazards are considered and controlled.
“An employer must involve affected workers in the hazard assessment, and the control or elimination of the hazards identified,” reads the bulletin. “OHS laws require employers to ensure workers have the training they need to work safely. This includes training on new policies, procedures and equipment related to respiratory viruses.”
Staff can expect to see things like floor plans allowing for physical distancing, rules and procedures for visitors to the workplace, cleaning stations, cold and flu symptom policies that reduce infection risk and staggered or adjusted shifts and breaks to reduce the number or workers in one place at one time, to name a few.
Lastly, according to the Government of Canada’s “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Your rights and responsibilities as an employee” landing page: “Under the Canada Labour Code, employees have the right to refuse to do a job if there is reasonable cause to believe that the job presents a danger to themselves or another employee. Employees must be at work in order to legitimately refuse to work.” The Canada Labour Code only applies to Federally-regulated employers.
Employers who want to clarify what is meant by “employees must be at work” can contact the Labour Program to discuss the particulars of their unique situation as it relates to COVID-19.
Always seek legal advice if you are unsure of your rights in regards to human rights, labour and employment, privacy, health information and occupational and health and safety.
COVID protocol updates across Canada
- British Columbia: C. launches proof of vaccination to stop spread of COVID-19
- To access some businesses, services and events (including sporting events, restaurants and movie theatres), British Columbians will require at least one vaccine by September 13, and be fully vaccinated by October 24
- Visitors to BC from Canada require an officially recognized vaccine record, and visitors from out of the country require proof of vaccination as shown upon traveling to the country and their passport
- Masks are required in all public indoor settings for all people born in 2009 or earlier
- Saskatchewan: COVID-19 Update For The Week of August 17: Additional Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Travel
- As of July 11, Saskatchewan lifted their COVID-19 public health order and all restrictions of the order were removed
- Manitoba: Manitoba Will Require COVID-19 Vaccinations or Testing for Designated Government Employees
- The Manitoba Government stated masks are strongly recommended in indoor public settings for everyone who is not fully immunized including children under 12
- Ontario: Ontario Makes COVID-19 Vaccination Policies Mandatory for High-Risk Settings
- According to the Ontario Government, the Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued a directive mandating hospitals and home and community care service providers to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers, and for ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics
- Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings such as:
- Post-secondary institutions;
- Licensed retirement homes;
- Women’s shelters; and
- Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings
- Quebec: Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport app ready for download
- Restrictions vary depending on region and can include a maximum of 10 people from different addresses or the occupants from 3 households. When people are 1 m apart, wearing a mask or face covering is strongly recommended for people who do not have adequate protection against COVID-19
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Department of Education and School Districts Provide Update on Return to K-12 School Plans for September 2021
- A public health emergency remains in place
- Travellers to the province, are required to complete and submit a travel form
- Nova Scotia: Border Policy Remains, Other Restrictions to be Lifted for Phase 5
- Up to 14-day isolation for COVID-19 symptoms and while waiting to get tested
- PEI: Islanders encouraged to get vaccinated; one new cast of COVID-19
- Masks are recommended in indoor public spaces for those who are not yet fully vaccinated
- Travelers from within the Atlantic provinces, who are fully or partially vaccinated, are be able to visit PEI with a PEI Pass
- New Brunswick: 1 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers fully vaccinated/three hospitalizations
- New Brunswickers can now book their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as long as its been 28 days since their first dose
- Yukon: The Yukon forges ahead, ends COVID-19 state of emergency
- All COVID restrictions in the Yukon have ended
- Northwest Territories: GNWT releases NWT school reopening guidelines for 2021-22 school year
- NWT is sharing incidents of breakouts with required actions per incidence including masks in public places and isolation dependent upon contact
- Nunavut: Nunavut extends Public Health Emergency
- Public health emergency extended to Sept. 2, 2021