Canadian Manufacturing

Companies launch mandatory vaccination policies and experts expect more coming

Many resisted the idea at first because vaccine supply was low in Canada and they worried about enforcing a policy centred around a shot that not all staff could access.

August 16, 2021  The Canadian Press

Some private sector companies are implementing policies requiring Canadian employees to be fully vaccinated to visit the office or participate in staff meetups — and at least one expert expects more businesses to follow suit.

Tobi Lutke, chief executive of Ottawa e-commerce giant Shopify Inc., said this week on Twitter that any staff members meeting up will need to show proof that they are fully vaccinated. Lutke said he made the decision “because science.”

Shopify isn’t alone. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has asked anyone working in its U.S. facilities to be vaccinated and said the company will expand the policy to other regions in the coming months.

Such moves comes as vaccination rates are stalling in Canada, the dangerous Delta variant is spreading across the globe and the federal government is seeking additional ways to protect the country.

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The Canadian government announced on Aug. 13 that federal employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and said it expects employers in federally-regulated industries, including banks and airlines, to launch the same policies.

There are close to half a million people who work directly for the federal government, a Crown corporation, the military or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and nearly a million more in federally regulated industries such as airlines and banks.

“It’s going to be a start of a big wave because all my executives have been saying, ‘I just want somebody else to do it first,'” said Dr. Elaine Chin, the founder and chief medical officer at the Executive Health Centre and Innovation Health Group.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had discussions with corporate leaders about their policies and urged them to adopt vaccination mandates.

Many resisted the idea at first because vaccine supply was low in Canada and they worried about enforcing a policy centred around a shot that not all staff could access.

Chin also heard from large employers who believed that if they mandated vaccination, between five and 10 per cent of their staff would oppose the policy, seek another job or sue for constructive dismissal.

Chin, who was formerly Telus Corp.’s chief wellness officer, recommends employers seek a doctor’s note from staff that can’t be vaccinated detailing why.

Employers should accommodate workers who have allergies to vaccine ingredients, high-risk pregnancies, are at risk of blood clotting or dealing with stem cell transplants, chemotherapy and radiation, she said.