Just as life seems like it is returning to normal, COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Policies in the workplace have created new hurdles.
On October 15, 2021, the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada (“The Ministry”) provided an update that suggests that the refusal to vaccinate may result in the denial of employment insurance benefits for employees.
Specifically, this update provides guidance for employers when issuing Records of Employment to those employees who have neglected to report to work due to a refusal to comply with mandatory vaccination policies (with the exception of those who are exempt due to a protected human rights ground). In the words of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability, Carla Qualtrough, in her interview of October 21, 2021 “It’s a condition of employment that has not been met…And the employer choosing to terminate someone for that reason would make that person ineligible for EI”.
The Ministry has developed new guidance for the use of codes for employers to indicate the reasons for issuing the ROE under new COVID-19 circumstances. The new guidance for these ROE Codes in relation to COVID-19 are as follows:
- Code A – Shortage of Work: Decrease in operations or closing due to effects of COVID-19
- Code D – Illness or Injury: Employee is sick or in quarantine as a result of COVID-19
- Code E – Quit: Employee has neglected to report to work due to a refusal to comply with mandatory vaccination policy
- Code N – Leave of Absence: Employee has neglected to report to work due to a refusal to comply with mandatory vaccination policy
- Code M— Dismissal: Suspension or termination of employee for refusing to comply with mandatory vaccination policy
Employers will still be required to bear certain responsibilities in relation to the implementation of the mandatory policy and the use of these ROE Codes regarding COVID-19 may prompt further inquiry from the Ministry.
Upon use of these codes, the Ministry may inquire as to:
- Whether the policy has been adopted and clearly communicated to all employees;
- Whether the employer has informed employees that a failure to comply with this policy will result a loss of employment;
- Whether the employer has applied the policy in a reasonable fashion within the context of the workplace;
- Whether the employer has allowed any exemptions for employees refusing to comply with the policy.
Therefore, depending on your circumstances, the refusal to follow Mandatory Vaccination Policies may result in the denial of your employment insurance benefits. This is a significant consequence in a time of economic uncertainty for many employees. We highly recommend that you speak with one of our employment lawyers at Monkhouse Law to help you navigate your situation.