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Lost your job over COVID-19 vaccine refusal? You may not qualify for EI, feds say

Click to play video: 'Clearing the confusion over vaccines mandates in the workplace' Clearing the confusion over vaccines mandates in the workplace
Employment lawyer Alex Lucifero breaks down the employee’s rights in the face of vaccine mandates and the legality of them – Oct 14, 2021

Workers who lose their job over a refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19 may not be eligible for employment insurance benefits, according to updated guidelines from the federal government.

Employment and Social Development Canada has issued a notice to employers enforcing vaccine mandates to help them fill out records of employment, a document needed to apply for E.I. benefits.

The department said if an employee doesn’t report to work or is suspended or terminated for refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate, the employer should indicate that they quit, took a leave of absence or were dismissed – potentially disqualifying them from E.I.

Read more: MPs will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter House of Commons next month

 

The notice also lays out multiple factors that could be considered, including whether the vaccine policy was clearly communicated, if it was reasonable within the workplace context and potential exemptions.

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Employment lawyer Adam Savaglio says the updated guidelines mean workers who refuse to vaccinate and cannot be accommodated by their workplace may not have employment insurance benefits to fall back on.

Click to play video: 'No jab, no job: Some health workers quit over COVID-19 immunization mandate' No jab, no job: Some health workers quit over COVID-19 immunization mandate
No jab, no job: Some health workers quit over COVID-19 immunization mandate – Oct 20, 2021

Still, the assessment of employment insurance applications will likely be done on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“The key question is are you entitled to benefit from employment insurance if you refuse to vaccinate,” said Savaglio, a partner with Scarfone Hawkins LLP in Hamilton, Ont.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for federal workers by end of October, Trudeau announces

“In certain circumstances, I think they’re going to take a contextual approach looking at all the factors of that individual’s employment, including whether it was a necessary condition of their employment contract that they be vaccinated,” he said.

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“Also, is it a reward to that individual to now provide them insurance benefits based on a preference or choice or a failure to meet a fundamental term of their employment.”

Savaglio added: “There will certainly be circumstances where employees will not be entitled to employment insurance.”

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