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BC Vaccine Status Requirement for Non-Essential Services – What Does This Mean for Businesses?

David M. Brown

Co-Founder + Partner
August 27, 2021

What about Proof of Vaccination?

Since mid-August, the HR world has been abuzz about a number of high-profile policy announcements from government leaders.

First, the Government of Canada announced on August 13, 2021 that all federally regulated employees and interprovincial/international travelers will require proof of vaccination. This announcement was followed shortly thereafter by a number of large Canadian companies, including banks and airlines, requiring proof of vaccination for all staff.

What about Vaccination Cards?

Then, on August 23, 2021, the Government of British Columbia announced that effective September 13, a vaccination card will be required for most of the province in order to attend certain social and recreational settings and events, including concerts, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms.

These moves are controversial, and one need look no further than Facebook to get a raw glimpse of the anger permeating through certain portions of the population. But with all these high-profile developments in vaccine mandates, are BC businesses now given the green light to require proof of vaccination from their own staff?

Shortly before the BC vaccine card announcement, my colleagues and I looked at this very question in a panel discussion (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLlteRzqbnI). In our conversation, we explored human rights, privacy and contractual concerns, and urged caution to employers in requiring staff to disclose their vaccination status. However, is this caution still justified? One need to look no further than the restauranteur who must check the vaccination status of guests and logically assume that they should also verify the vaccination status of staff.

What Next?

Here are my thoughts:

Governments are projecting – These decisions cannot exist in a vacuum, and it certainly seems to me that the position governments, airlines, banks and other major players are taking are projecting where this debate will conclude. These are sophisticated players that are bound by law and by the constitution. While it is possible that a competent court may ultimately find these decisions to violate constitutional, human rights or privacy norms, a lot of thought will have gone into the legality and the efficacy of these policies. If it’s acceptable for RBC to require staff to be vaccinated before returning to work, why would it not be acceptable for other public facing businesses like the Foghorn Pub and Mike’s Pizza?

There’s a lot of anger out there… – People have very strong feelings about this issue – and with good reason. The policies of concern are striking very close to personal questions of bodily autonomy and informed consent. With approximately 20% of eligible British Columbians not vaccinated, every workplace should anticipate resistance to this measures. How businesses react to non-compliance, insubordination and even dishonesty should be carefully planned for.

Don’t shoot the messenger – Human resources personnel are accustomed to being the bearers of bad news, but we should never overlook that the person communicating a policy does not assume ownership of it. HR has had to deal with a lot over the course of the past 18 months, and they remain on the front line of difficult corporate decisions.

This thought also carries through to legal counsel. My own firm has been the subject of angry phone calls and obscene social media posts over educational content we have published on the state of the law. While Ascent will always show courage when faced with difficult questions, there has to be a differentiation between policy makers and policy communicators. We don’t make the law… we just talk about it.

 

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