Can workers be forced to take the vaccine?
Legal experts are divided, citing a conflict between labour law and human rights law
You’re sitting in a hospital waiting room, and a nurse walks in to see you. You wonder to yourself if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The answer? Not necessarily. Nor, for that matter, is there any guarantee the cashier at the grocery store, your bus driver, or your kid’s schoolteacher has had the shot.
Even once vaccines have been widely distributed, legal experts disagree on whether employers can make it mandatory for employees to get the shot.
At its heart, those experts say, is a conflict between the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and human rights legislation, such as the Ontario Human Rights Code or federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“As things stand, there is no legislative or health order which would permit employers to mandate vaccine use. … The OHSA only provides a certain amount of cover,” said Trevor Lawson, a partner in the labour and employment practice at McCarthy Tetrault.
Don’t expect any new mandatory COVID-19 vaccine legislation or health order from the province. Asked about it last week for employees in health care and other front-line workers, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Premier Doug Ford has been clear.
“The premier has been very clear that he wants this to be a voluntary