Job hunters are facing a new hurdle when applying for positions as an increasing number of employers insist they reveal whether or not they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
With governments, the public sector and private businesses all announcing vaccine mandates for their employees in recent weeks, those policies are now spilling over into job postings at a time when employers are already struggling to find workers.
And while Canadian employers were slower to bring in vaccination policies for new hires than their U.S. counterparts, that gap has closed, according to figures compiled for The Globe and Mail by job listing website Indeed.
As of last Friday, 1.1 per cent of all Canadian English-language job postings make mention of vaccine-related requirements, double the share from two weeks ago and up from virtually zero in July. Based on the number of total listings for Canada on Indeed, that works out to just under 5,000 job postings. The Canadian share is now slightly ahead of vaccine mentions in job postings in the United States.
“While the overall prevalence is relatively small, the situation is changing quickly, and we’re now seeing vaccine requirements across a wide range of sectors of the economy,” said Brendon Bernard, senior economist at Indeed. “This is a trend that’s just getting started.”
The Indeed database includes many job postings that were posted weeks ago before vaccine mandates by employers became more common, and Mr. Bernard said he expects the share that mention vaccination requirements to surge as more new job openings are posted and older ones disappear. One survey by KPMG last month found nearly two-thirds of small and medium-sized Canadian businesses plan to introduce mandatory vaccinations for their employees.
Not surprisingly, many of the job postings that require proof of vaccination are for positions in the health care, education and community-service sectors where staff work in close quarters with others, but Mr. Bernard said manufacturers and construction companies have also begun to follow suit.
It’s an abrupt shift from the summer when those who work with companies to develop vaccination policies for employees had trouble getting the attention of upper management.
“It fell on deaf ears when we talked to businesses, but the situation has switched rapidly,” said Dr. Kumanan Wilson, founder and chief executive officer of CANImmunize, an Ottawa-based startup that developed software for Nova Scotia to manage its COVID-19 vaccination program.
This week CANImmunize launched a digital tool aimed at helping employers manage and track vaccination status and cases among their staff. It’s already proving popular with large companies that have employees in multiple provinces with different vaccination guidelines, Dr. Wilson said.
By laying out their vaccination rules to prospective new hires upfront, employers avoid the thorny question of what to do with existing staff who refuse to be vaccinated or disclose their vaccination status. “Unless someone is not vaccinated because of a genuinely held religious belief or a health condition, then you can make this a requirement for getting the job,” Toronto-based employment lawyer Stuart Rudner said. “Otherwise it’s no different than requiring a driver’s licence.”
Mr. Rudner said the “million-dollar question” before the courts is whether the refusal by existing employees to be vaccinated is reasonable grounds for dismissal. While it might be reasonable to fire a worker at a long-term care facility who refuses to be vaccinated, he said, it would not be reasonable to do so for a clerical employee who works remotely.
Mr. Rudner said it could take more than a year before the courts are able to give a definitive answer on that.
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