Oct 6, 2021  By John Hyde

The Government of Canada Announces Vaccine Requirements for Employers

The Government of Canada Announces Vaccine Requirements for Federally Regulated Transportation Employers, as well as for Federal Public Servants

On October 6, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that all employers in federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors will be required to implement mandatory vaccination policies on or before October 30. Additionally, all federal public servants must also be vaccinated by month's end or be forced to take an unpaid leave of absence.

This announcement is a follow-up to a statement made by the federal government on August 13, 2021.

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Federally Regulated Transportation Employers

A) Vaccination Policies

As of October 30, employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors will be required to enforce vaccine policies for their employees. More specifically, the vaccination requirements will apply to:

  • Airlines and airports, as well as other organizations whose employees enter restricted areas of airports. Examples of such employees include concession and hospitality workers.
  • Federally regulated railways, as well as their rail crew and track employees.
  • Marine operators with Canadian vessels that operate crews of 12 or more individuals.

Interestingly, and perhaps contrary to the positions taken by the government on August 13 and September 28 of this year, the announcement today stopped short of extending the vaccination mandate to cover employers in other federally regulated "private" businesses, like the majority of the trucking industry. That said, employers in numerous other federally regulated sectors, have already unilaterally applied such mandate, particularly where office or work environments involve employee close contact. Banks are but one example.

B) Enforcement for Non-Compliance

Compliance with these requirements will be overseen by Transport Canada, who will ensure that these transportation systems and workplaces operate safely, and in accordance with the mandate. Furthermore, each employer affected by the vaccine directive will be required to implement a rigorous policy, which:

  • Includes a provision for employees to declare their vaccination status;
  • Includes a description of consequences for employees who do not comply, or who falsify information; and
  • Meets standards consistent with the approach taken by the Government of Canada for "core public administration" employees.

After a short period where these changes will be phased in, each employer will be required to guarantee that its employees are fully vaccinated. Otherwise, employees will be unable to work.

Transport Canada will oversee compliance through inspections and enforcement tools, including different types of penalties.

To illustrate the importance of proper compliance for employers, consider the following examples:

  • Employers in the rail sector who fail to comply with the federal government's vaccine mandate could be penalized up to $250,000 per violation, per day, under the Railway Safety Act.
  • Operators in the air sector who fail to comply with the federal government's vaccine mandate could be fined up to $25,000 per violation, under the Aeronautics Act.
  • Operators in the marine sector who fail to comply can be fined up to $250,000 per violation, per day, under certain circumstances under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Federal Public Servants

In addition to the requirements related to federally regulated transportation employers, the Government of Canada also stated that federal public servants in the Core Public Administration, including members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This requirement applies to employees who are teleworking, working remotely, or who work on-site. As well, contracted personnel who require access to federal government worksites, such as cleaning staff, will also need to be vaccinated.

Employees must provide their vaccination status through a secure online system by no later than October 29, 2021, or apply for a medical or religious exemption by the same date.

As early as November 15, public servants who refuse to disclose their status, or who are not fully vaccinated, will be placed on administrative leave without pay. However, employees who are unable to be vaccinated for a reason connected with a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as a disability, will have to be accommodated, up to the point of undue hardship.

Employees who make false statements related to their vaccination status may be disciplined, and in some cases, terminated.

Finally, the federal government has also requested that Crown corporations and agencies implement vaccine policies mirroring those applicable to the rest of the public service.

The Bottom Line

The Government of Canada's announcement on October 6, 2021, assigns important duties to employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine sectors. Failure to comply with these responsibilities will no doubt be costly for employers, meaning that compliance should not be taken lightly.

The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are happy to draft such policies for you, as well as answer any questions you may have about their use.

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