COVID-19 Vaccines Mandatory for B.C. Long-Term Care Workers

Authors: Graham Christie, Lynsey Gaudin, Negina Khalil

On August 12, 2021 British Columbia health officials announced that they will introduce new orders requiring all employees in long-term care and assisted living facilities in the province to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

This mandate comes after the announcement on August 10 of 536 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of new cases in British Columbia in nearly three months. COVID-19 cases have increased 1,000 per cent in the last five weeks.

As a condition of employment, the new requirement will apply to all licensed facilities, every staff member, volunteers and personal service workers whose duties require them to enter care homes. Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that acute care and community care workers must also be fully vaccinated, but the Government is still working out those details. For employees who cannot receive the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons, the Government will work with their employers and unions. Employers have a duty to accommodate employees who cannot receive the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons. Accommodation will be determined on a case-by-case basis and may require employers to adjust rules, policies, or practices to enable the employee to participate fully.

Some major European countries, including France, Italy, and Greece have already implemented mandatory vaccines. The Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Medical Association recently called on Canadian jurisdictions to implement similar measures.

The British Columbia Government has said that this order is particularly important given the new highly contagious variants of the virus. The new vaccination mandate will require every employee in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities to be fully vaccinated by October 12, 2021. In the meantime, employers will test unvaccinated employees for the virus regularly.

MLT Aikins labour and employment lawyers can assist employers contemplating their own vaccination and the workplace policies. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.