Q and A: How are workers affected by Alberta’s new restrictions?

This week, Alberta implemented new health and safety measures for businesses.

In line with these changes, some Alberta businesses are eligible to implement a proof of vaccination program in order to be exempt from the new restrictions.

How are workers affected by the new rules?

Employees are not affected by the restrictions exemption program, meaning that they do not have to show proof of vaccination if their workplace wants to be exempt from restrictions.

For this reason, employers should have a separate system in place regarding the vaccination of their staff to ensure the potential gap between unvaccinated employees and vaccinated customers narrows (implementing vaccine policies, etc.).

Last week, Alberta also implemented a mandatory work-from-home order for businesses unless the employer has determined a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

Is vaccination mandatory for workers in Alberta?

There is no government mandate for vaccine policies or mandatory vaccination.

Only Alberta Health Services (“AHS”) has announced that vaccination will be mandatory for all employees of AHS, Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest, CapitalCare and Covenant Health, members of the medical and midwifery staff, students and volunteers.

What should employers consider before implementing vaccine policies voluntarily?

Some companies might want to implement vaccination policies even though they are not legally obligated to.

Such policies should outline when employees are expected to get vaccinated and how staff that are unable to get vaccinated will be affected. Employers should be mindful of their obligations under human rights legislation and can use their policies to state what accommodations will be provided to workers that cannot get the vaccine.

What are the risks of vaccine policies for businesses?

Enforcing mandatory vaccination policies can come with risks for the business. If having vaccination policies is not required by the law, employers will have to make a good case for why vaccination might be necessary for employment and even then, cannot compel their workers to get vaccinated. Such a move could open the business to risk of discrimination and constructive dismissal claims from upset employees.

This opinion piece is written by experts at Peninsula, an HR and Health and Safety advisory, serving over 80,000 small businesses worldwide.

Note: FInd more details about Alberta’s Restrictions Exemptions Program online at alberta.ca/covid-19.