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In this article, we will be continuing our ‘what you need to know’ series on the return to work, addressing the questions around vaccines, face masks and COVID testing for employees coming back to the office.


Firstly, let’s address the subject of vaccines. As HR consultants, we have been closely following the legal advice surrounding this very tricky and difficult situation that employers are faced with. So what can you or cannot ask of employees regarding the vaccine?

Whether or not an individual is vaccinated is considered sensitive personal health information, so it is highly recommended not to ask for this information unless there’s an absolute business-related need.

First step
We strongly recommend seeking legal advice to validate whether the employers perceive need to ask for this information is warranted and also to craft a solid policy surrounding this reason as well as any accommodations that would need to be made under human rights legislation.

So what if an employee is showing symptoms of COVID in the workplace, could an employer ask them to get tested? The employer cannot force an employee to get tested.

However, as an employer you do need to ensure you are providing a safe workplace. So it will be essential that you have clear policies and procedures in place that states and document the guidelines and rules for when an employee is showing symptoms.

For example

  • Health questionnaires

Face Masks

The wearing of face masks and maintaining physical distancing are still required in an office environment. Your obligation as an employer is to keep up to date with the latest provincial legislation and think about what policies would be most fitted with your organization. Think about creating policies that reinforce both the employee safety and employee rights.

Try to consider policies such as:

  • Will you give paid leave if employees need to quarantine or sick days while they wait for the test results, even if they have already used up their allotted sick days?

Navigating through the transition of the return to the office is very difficult for employers. Your employees may have varying viewpoints on vaccines and testing and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the return will mean for your employees.

Employers need to find ways to prioritize health and safety while being inclusive and accepting of divergent viewpoints. This will ensure an overall engaged staff.

How to achieve this?

  • Clear, fair & reasonable policies

Boreala Management can assist you in updating your policies, thinking through the general implications as well as communications planning. We can also point you in the direction to great legal advice so that you can be sure that you’re covered for whatever you’re being faced with.

Here are the links to a couple of relevant articles on this subject

Check out this article if you want more information on what to do if an employee refuses to come back to the office.