NSGEU STATEMENT UPDATE: COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination
The NSGEU has always strongly encouraged its members to get vaccinated to help protect against preventable illnesses, such as influenza, H1N1, and now COVID-19. It is important that we protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the members of the public we serve.
Given the serious health implications associated with COVID-19, the availability of vaccines and the potential serious disruption to any workplace, labour arbitrators would likely determine that vaccine mandates are reasonable for a wide variety of employers. Indeed, more and more employers across Canada have introduced policies requiring their staff be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Recently, in Nova Scotia, several NSGEU employers have begun announcing they will bring in policies.
Some NSGEU members have raised questions about their rights should their employer require them to be vaccinated and whether their employer can require them to disclose if they have been vaccinated.
If an Employer introduces a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, it must comply with a number of important key principles:
- the Union must be consulted and employees informed of the policy before it is implemented so that employees have an opportunity to comply;
- any policies must be reasonable and consistent with the collective agreements in place;
- policies must be clear as to their requirements and consequences of any breach; and,
- policies must be consistently enforced.
In addition, employers have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship any employee with a disability or religious objection that prevents them from complying with the policy.
Employer mandates may also offer alternatives to employees who choose not to be vaccinated. For example, they may require regular testing, mandatory Covid education and / or the requirement to mask and distance at all times in the work place.
Labour arbitrators have ruled in the past that where vaccination policies are warranted, it is reasonable for the employer to require proof of vaccination, rather than self-reporting. These rulings point out existing collective agreements allow employers access to some health information for employees to be eligible for benefits like sick leave.
NSGEU strongly advises members whose employer has introduced a valid mandatory vaccine policy to adhere to that policy. Failing to do so could have serious employment implications. If you have questions about mandatory vaccination policies in your workplace, please contact the NSGEU (902-424-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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