Growing number of companies end mandatory vaccination as COVID-19 restrictions ease

·2 min read

MONTREAL — A growing swath of Canadian companies are no longer requiring employees to be vaccinated to come to work, as corporate policies ease in step with public health guidelines.

Governments have been loosening COVID-19 restrictions, with Ottawa allowing airline and railway workers as well as passengers to climb on board without being jabbed starting Monday.

Canada's big banks and four largest accounting firms have all rolled back their corporate vaccine mandates for employees as they return to the office.

The two biggest railways are doing likewise, as is Air Canada.

The country's largest airline said in an email it is recalling nearly 600 employees — less than two per cent of its staff — who were on unpaid leave for more than seven months due to a requirement that aviation workers be inoculated.

Not all big employers are on board, however. Sun Life Financial Inc. said mandatory vaccination for tens of thousands of in-office workers remains in place for now.

"Our employees continue to have flexibility and choice on whether they work at an office, from home, or both. We want everyone to feel comfortable coming into our offices," spokeswoman Nadine Jahangir said in an email.

Kathleen Chevalier, an employment and labour lawyer at Stikeman Elliott, says the trend toward dropping vaccine mandates marks a response to shifts in provincial and federal rules as well as growing comfort with shared indoor spaces.

However, nixing such an arguably intrusive rule doesn't rule out reimposing it.

"You can only mandate the policies or any type of action by an employer if the circumstances really justify it. So taking it away doesn't necessarily, from a legal perspective, make it harder to bring it back if you have that underlying justification," Chevalier said in an interview, citing worker health.

"From an employee relations perspective, though, that might be a different kettle of fish."

Some companies have caveats on their scrapped vaccine mandates.

Ernst & Young Inc. employees must show evidence of full vaccination if requested by clients, said spokeswoman Victoria McQueen.

The horizon for scrapping the policies has been a long one, with PwC Canada lifting the vaccine mandate for its 7,300 employees on April 13 and KPMG only following suit for its 8,700 workers on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:SLF)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting