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Nova Scotia directs businesses to develop their own employee vaccine policy

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia businesses will have to implement its own vaccine policy for employees'
Nova Scotia businesses will have to implement its own vaccine policy for employees
WATCH: Nova Scotia will be requiring proof of vaccination for non-essential services and activities beginning Oct. 4. But the province is not mandating that businesses require its employees to be double vaccinated. Instead, it’s up to businesses to come up with their own policies. Jesse Thomas reports – Sep 15, 2021

Come Oct. 4, Nova Scotians will have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to take part in non-essential and discretionary activities and services like dining at a restaurant, going to a movie, or taking in a sporting event.

But the province clarified on Tuesday during a press briefing, that it’s not mandating businesses require their employees to be double vaccinated and is instead, leaving businesses to come up with their own policy.

“I think businesses will be happy they have clarity but now they need to get to work on developing their own vaccination policy,” said Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

Nova Scotia’s proof of vaccination policy isn’t finalized just yet but will apply to anyone who is aged 12 and older. People will need to show proof of vaccination to take in events or enter establishments that provide customer services.

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Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang confirmed on Tuesday that proof of vaccination won’t be required for employees of the businesses and organizations that offer these events or services.

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Labour and employment lawyer Ian Pickard says it comes as no surprise that the government said businesses will have to come up with their own vaccine policy for their employees.

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“The relationship between the employer and the employee is a unique relationship to those two parties and it’s very difficult for an outsider to mandate how that relationship works.”

Proof of vaccination in the workplace is ultimately a health and safety issue for the employees and the employer, says Pickard, and businesses can mandate that their staff are fully vaccinated if they want to come into work but there are other options as well.

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“You do have the right as an employer to give people a choice,” said Pickard. “If you want to come to work and work in this environment for safety reasons, then we expect you to be double-vaccinated and if you choose not to be vaccinated then there could be consequences.”

Pickard said nobody — including the government — can force someone to be vaccinated and so it’s important for businesses to have a clear vaccination policy for their employees.

Pickard says the employer has several options for employees who are not fully vaccinated, which include an ongoing mask and testing policy. The employer may choose to put the employee on temporary leave or lay them off. While there’s also an option to terminate employment, Pickard said that would be extreme.

“My big concern from a legal perspective is this is a temporary issue and so terminating someone for cause because they refuse to be double vaccinated sounds like a severe outcome for what is a temporary issue,” Pickard.

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There are privacy and human rights concerns at play whenever a business or employer requests health information from its employees but it’s expected there’s some latitude because of the pandemic and safety concerns in the workplace.

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The province has yet to issue the vaccine pass and it’s not clear at this time what the pass will look like or how businesses will verify it.

“There’s still a lot of question about what the employers or the businesses responsibility will be when this starts,” said Sullivan.

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