SAI360’s Tera Peterson talks with Canadian HR Reporter about Covid-19 vaccination and safety policies for employers.
Proactive development of internal vaccination and safety policies can prepare employers for bumps in the road during the vaccine rollout.
Read the article in Canadian HR Reporter (June 21, 2021)
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is part of the biggest mass immunization effort in history. It’s a monumental task for governments to manage and it has its challenges, but its success is key to the re-establishment of society and the economy.
Workplaces are one of the most common places where people gather, so employers have to prepare for the opening up of restrictions, employee safety, and the challenges that come with people who have varying levels of protection.
Different industries are going to have differing factors to address related to the nature of their work, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to internal vaccination and safety policies for employers, says Tera Peterson, senior product marketing manager at risk management and compliance firm SAI Global, and employers are likely to encounter some challenges along the way.
In Canada, it may be difficult to require employees to get vaccinated due to privacy and human rights concerns, and vaccination during a pandemic is still a new area in employment law. Businesses with strict hygiene requirements or significant contact with the public may be in a gray area that has yet to be sorted out. At this point, it’s an employer-specific challenge that employers will have to carefully consider as they develop their policies, says Peterson.
Accommodating reluctant and refusing workers
Where an employer can’t require employees to get vaccinated, it will have to consider alternatives for employees who refuse or want to delay vaccination, or if other employees express a reluctance to work with colleagues who haven’t gotten the shots.
This is where the importance of a clear, thought-out internal policy can be important, says Peterson. Such a policy should set out exceptions and alternatives — such as accommodation for unvaccinated employees by providing them with personal protective equipment, distanced work areas, and barriers separating vaccinated from non-vaccinated workers.
On the flip side, a company vaccination policy could include incentives to combat hesitancy — such as cash bonuses, time off, or recognition within the workplace — or make it easier to get the shot with paid time off or onsite vaccination clinics, she says.
“It depends on specific employers and their work culture, but the key is to have these scenarios set out and plan before employees return to work,” says Peterson. “That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of having an end-to-end vaccine policy management plan.”
See additional resources and insights from SAI360 for safely returning to the workplace and managing vaccination policies for employees.