Work: What’s Next | Rising COVID-19 cases and calls for mandatory vaccinations

Headshot of employment lawyer Lior Samfiru to the left of the Global News logo, which hovers above a dark blue band across the bottom of the image bearing the Samfiru Tumarkin LLP logo.

Interview Summary

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to the delta variant, there has been an increased call for mandatory vaccines in various workplaces. But can employers implement their own vaccine policies without legislation? How will employees and employers navigate another wave of COVID-19?

Lior Samfiru, a Toronto employment lawyer and co-founding Partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joins Global News Morning Toronto to answer these questions and more.

Interview Notes

Is it concerning for employers and employees that some businesses have imposed their own vaccine mandates?

Many businesses like the MLSE and even banks across the province of Ontario have imposed their own mandatory vaccine policies. It is important to remember, however, that for most private enterprises this practice is still not legal. These policies could pose potential human rights violations for employees who are forced to be vaccinated by their employers.

Can unions fight mandatory vaccine policies and win?

Unions do have the ability to fight mandatory vaccination policies as it could be a potential human rights violation. Vaccinations are considered a medical procedure and unions could win this challenge.

Does the Ontario provincial government’s stance on mandatory vaccines change anything for employees?

The Ontario government’s announcement indicates all employers in high-risk settings have to implement a vaccine policy; vaccines are still not considered mandatory. Employers should be wary of penalizing employees who are not vaccinated within these settings. The provincial government has stipulated employees who are not vaccinated must undergo COVID-19 tests.

How to respond if your boss is pressuring you to get vaccinated

Can an employer terminate an employee for cause due to performance issues?

It is typically very difficult to terminate an employee for cause, as these types of dismissals are usually reserved for serious misconduct by an employee. Employees who have made simple errors cannot be terminated for cause and employers could face wrongful dismissal suits if they choose to pursue this type of termination. Severance packages for terminated workers can be as much as 24 months’ pay in Canada.

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