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Employer Advice and Tips on Managing Unvaccinated Staff


While vaccines hold out the hope that eventually we’ll return to a pre-pandemic normal, the vaccine shot is not mandatory under the law. Like the flu shot, it will be a personal choice that not everybody would opt for.

This means your staff has the right to refuse the vaccine and you cannot (and should not) push them to take it. This puts employers in a tough spot. Under the occupational health and safety law, you are required to take all reasonable precautions to ensure workplace health and safety. But you can’t ask your staff to get inoculated.

How do I accommodate employees who refuse the vaccine?

You must exercise great care when managing employees who do not wish to get vaccinated. It is important that they do not feel ostracized or bullied in the workplace.

There are many reasons as to why someone may not be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They may have a prior medical condition or a disability that prevents them from getting the shot. Or they may be vaccine hesitant due to religious reasons or the misinformation being spread around about the vaccine.

Whatever the reason, bullying and ridiculing the employee for their hesitancy or opinion is not going to solve the problem. What it can get you is a lawsuit for human rights violation or a workplace violence and harassment claim.

You must not draw attention to those employees in the workplace who have refused the vaccine or share their reasons for doing so. If unvaccinated staff feel bullied or harassed in the workplace, it can also affect their mental health and productivity.

Here’s what you should do:
Educate your staff about the vaccine

There is a lot of misinformation being floated around about the COVID-19 vaccines. The best you can do is create awareness about the safety and benefits of getting vaccinated against a deadly virus.

You could invite a health expert to give a Zoom talk on the vaccines and answer questions your staff may have about it. You could also hold weekly meetings where using reliable sources, you discuss the latest information on vaccines and any concerns your staff may have.

If you are a BrightHR customer, you can share our COVID-19 vaccine awareness e-course with your staff. The course will help your employees get answers to common and complex questions about the vaccination process. You could also download professional letter templates to encourage your staff to get the shot.

Talk to unvaccinated employees

If you have staff members who won’t be opting for the vaccine, have a frank and private conversation with them and find out why. If their reluctance is due to lack of knowledge, you could direct them towards credible sources of information to dispel those doubts. If it is due to health reasons, you could work out a way to accommodate their needs with your safety requirements.

For instance, if your business allows it, let unvaccinated staff continue working from home. Or you could give them alternative roles that do not require being in the field or dealing with people daily. It is important that you get your worker’s consent before changing their role to avoid a constructive dismissal claim.

If these options don’t work out, make sure unvaccinated staff at work follow the existing health and safety guidelines on physical distancing, masks and maintaining respiratory and hand hygiene.

Create clear COVID-19 policies

Whether it is an HR policy allowing unvaccinated staff to work from home or one providing paid time off to get a vaccine shot, ensure you draft clear policies and share them with your staff.  This would help you prepare for any possible future complications or risks. You may also want to update and review your policies as per changing guidelines and Public Health updates.

Are there any BrightHR resources I could use for staff vaccine management?

Yes. To save you time and hassle, we’ve introduced a new vaccination tracking feature on BrightHR called VaccTrak.

It allows you to update employee profiles to securely log who’s vaccinated. You can document the date of the first and second dose and proof of vaccination as well.

VaccTrak lets you download regular reports so that you have the latest staff vaccination stats.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.

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