Workplace Law Trends for 2022
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Welcome to 2020 Two! It’s hard to believe we’ve been living through a pandemic for nearly 2 years. Workplaces are beyond worn out, stress leaves and harassment complaints continue to increase, parents are juggling remote learning and limited activities for kids once again, and many workplaces struggle to find people to fill the roles. 

Yes, it’s all a bit of a mess, but out of crisis emerge new ways to approach issues and novel solutions to traditional problems. Here are our predictions for workplace law trends and changes in 2022.

#1 – Push for Hybrid and Remote Working

Studies over the last year are showing a deep disconnect between senior bosses and employees about preferred workplaces. Increasingly, employees want – and now expect – at least some remote work option, whereas senior levels of management are more likely to continue to see in-person work better for productivity, mentoring and focus.
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Office holiday party and Covid-19 considerations
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Likely you’ve noticed that the holiday season is upon us! Often around this time of year, we’ve written a blog post about holiday office parties. Usually, these have revolved around topics like social host liability, drinking and sexual harassment. This year, many workplaces are eager to get the gang back together in person and have the additional consideration of COVID-19! What to do?!

Where to Party?

An easy option, which will allow employers to avoid having to reinvent the wheel, will be to have the holiday party at a restaurant. Restaurants know the local public health rules and you won’t have to ruin the night for your HR person by requiring them to be the mask police all night. Proof of vaccination is required to dine indoors in most jurisdictions and the restaurant will have a set-up for contract tracing and vaccination checks. 
Continue Reading Time to Party IRL?

Recent Changes to the Federal Government’s Covid-19 Benefits Schemes
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As of Saturday, October 23, 2021, a suite of federal benefits formerly slated for both individuals and small businesses was set to expire following several extension periods. In partial response, the federal government has earmarked $7.4 billion for new programs intended to maintain some level of support for businesses and individuals throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Is Set To Expire?

On October 23, 2021, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) both expired after their initial implementation in 2020. The Budget Implementation Act would allow the government to extend these programs to November 30, 2021, however, anything beyond this time frame would require the introduction of new legislation. Under the CERS, businesses have a monthly cap of $75,000 on eligible expenses that can be claimed per business location, and $300,000 in total for all locations. In our discussion below, there is potential for an increase in this monthly cap. 
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Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies
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In our recent blog, we discussed the consequences that employees may face for not receiving government-approved COVID-19 vaccinations. We also touched on the legitimate medical or religious reasons that some employees may have for refusing or being unable to be vaccinated. In this blog, we’ll take a deeper dive into what sorts of exemptions employers should be prepared to expect (if they have not already come across them) and the steps they can take to determine whether employees have a valid request for an exemption from vaccination, along with the required accommodations. 

Types of COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Exemptions Employers May Encounter

Employers should keep an eye out for valid medical and religious/creed-based exemptions employees may have from vaccination. 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has provided some examples (of which it emphasizes there are few) of acceptable medical exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccination:
Continue Reading A Deeper Dive into Exemptions from Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies

Job Consequences for Employees Refusing Mandatory Vaccination
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We are getting lots of questions from employers and employees about vaccination. We addressed many of these questions a few weeks ago in our post Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination. Now that a little bit of time has passed, we are getting more questions about the possible job consequences for employees who are unvaccinated. 

Why is the Employee not Vaccinated?

Before considering what job consequences might be appropriate, it’s crucial for employers to understand the employee’s reasons for being unvaccinated. In rare circumstances, an employee may be entitled to a legitimate exemption from a mandatory vaccination policy. Employees who have legitimate exemptions based on medical or religious grounds will be entitled to protection from discrimination by human rights legislation. While it still may not be appropriate to allow an unvaccinated employee with a legitimate reason for an exemption from attending in person at the office, they will be entitled to accommodation. The range of accommodations is wide, from placing an employee on an unpaid leave of absence to allowing them to continue their work remotely. For more information on legitimate reasons for exemptions and accommodation, see our past post
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proof of vaccination
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On September 1, 2021, the Ontario government announced that, beginning September 22, 2021, Ontario residents will be required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (meaning that both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine must have been administered at least fourteen days prior), in the form of a printout or PDF receipt of vaccination status, plus photo identification, in order to enter certain non-essential business sites. A vaccine verification app and QR code, to be used by various businesses and organizations, are currently under development. 

Where Proof of Vaccination Will and Will Not be Required in Ontario 

The vaccine certificate program requires that non-essential businesses restrict entry to their premises to those who have valid proof of vaccination, as outlined above. Non-essential businesses include restaurants (indoor dining only); nightclubs (indoor and outdoor areas); theatres, music festivals, concerts, and cinemas; night clubs, strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs; racing venues; casinos and gaming establishments; fitness and recreational centres (except youth recreational sport); and meeting spaces.
Continue Reading Vaccine Passports: Which Businesses will Require Them and Who is Exempt?

Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination
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Both employers and employees are asking questions related to mandatory vaccinations and consequences for employees who don’t get them. Here we run through some of those FAQs!

Q: If vaccinations are deemed to be “mandatory” for workers, are there any legal exemptions?

A: Yes, in some cases there will be legal exceptions to a job requirement that employees be vaccinated. These exceptions come from the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), which prohibits discrimination in employment based on protected grounds. The protected grounds likely to be engaged with respect to a vaccination requirement are disability and creed. If the exemption is based on a medical reason, it will fall under disability. Religious reasons will fall under creed.
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