With COVID vaccines now being administered to some groups in Canada and the USA, it is so important that employers, especially in the dental industry, understand their rights as well as their responsibilities to the clinic, patients and their staff when it comes to this vaccine. Of course, everyone is anxious and excited for life to return to normal as soon as possible, so naturally many are wondering: “Can I require my employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?”
Looking back, it’s hard to believe we have been dealing with/discussing COVID-19 for a year now. It is not something that is going to go away any time soon. It has changed the way things are done-from how we shop in the grocery store, to how we eat out in restaurants to how we run our dental practices.
We first dealt with the uncertainty of what it was all about, then it was new variants, and now is the growing debate about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions we have been receiving when it comes to the new COVID-19 vaccination.
Can employers require that employees be immunized against COVID-19?
No, based on the fact, based on the fact that no federal, provincial or local health authority has indicated that they will mandate vaccination.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it says that employers have a duty to protect their workers. In settings where employees work with vulnerable or widespread populations, vaccinations help eliminate the risk of contracting these communicable diseases.
We would recommend that instead of a mandatory vaccination policy, consider instituting a voluntary vaccination policy. The policy should be clear, unambiguous, consistently enforced, and communicated to all affected employees.
An employee may refuse to be vaccinated due to a long standing religious grounds, allergy or medical condition. While the employer has the right to ask questions and verify the claim, a bona fide human-rights issue will trump the employer’s interest in protecting the health and safety of the workplace through mandatory vaccination
How do I document that certain employees aren’t getting the vaccine?
It’s very important to have employees sign a waiver of liability saying that they understand that there are risks associated with working in the health care field (including dentistry) and that they have knowingly opted out of being vaccinated.
How do we respond to patients who ask if our staff members have been vaccinated?
This may feel like a tough question to answer, so here is a response you can use to address your patients when this question arises.
"We are not able to disclose confidential and personal medical information without explicit consent from each individual employee."
It’s important to assure the patient that you are committed to the utmost highest standards to keep patients and employees safe.
If an employee doesn’t get vaccinated and then gets COVID-19, do I still have to give them paid time off?
The answer to this question depends on your state/provincial employment standards and laws at the time of COVID-19 infection.
As we learned since COVID-19 started, things can quickly change and it’s important to try and stay on top of all the recent changes and activities.
We know it can be a lot of information, but that is why we created the COVID-19 HR hotline to help address some questions and concerns.