CFIB urges caution on mandatory vaccine policies or passports

Toronto, August 23, 2021 - Small business owners have several concerns related to the use of mandatory vaccination policies or passports, finds new data shared by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). CFIB urges the federal and provincial governments as well as small business owners to use caution as they consider such approaches. 

Small business views on vaccine passports
Support or opposition for vaccine passports varies widely depending on what such a policy would mean. While a majority of small business owners support the use of vaccine passports for international travel and large events, there are mixed views on using them with employees and more who oppose their use among customers than those who support the idea. A considerable number remain undecided.

Would you support the use of a vaccine passport by government in the following situations?

  Yes No Undecided
International travel 74% 21% 5%
Large events (concerts, festivals, large sporting events) 65% 28% 7%
Employees in our workplace 48% 40% 12%
Customers visiting our business 37% 47% 16%
Employees and/or customers in our business as an alternative to lockdowns in the event of a fourth wave of COVID-19 55% 31% 14%

Practical concerns with vaccine passports 
A majority have practical concerns about the risks and execution of mandatory vaccination policies or passports:

  • It would be a significant challenge for our business to create a system to ensure our employees and customers were fully vaccinated: 61 per cent
  • We are concerned about the legal risk (such as privacy or human rights) of checking vaccine credentials for employees and/or customers: 64 per cent

More than three quarters (77 per cent) of business owners indicated that they support and encourage their employees in getting vaccinated in an earlier CFIB survey from April. However, vaccine passports raise important questions for small business owners and their employees:

  • Who would be in charge of verifying customers’ vaccine status? Small businesses and their employees have concerns about policing vaccine status.
  • How will enforcement work? What do businesses do if a customer refuses to provide proof of vaccination?
  • How will data be collected and privacy be protected?
  • How will small business owners meet their legal obligations to accommodate religious or health issues for employees?
  • Will small businesses be liable for human rights complaints if they don’t serve unvaccinated customers?
  • What do small businesses do if an employee is not vaccinated and has no plan to get vaccinated? 
  • How will out-of-province and out-of-country tourists be treated? Will proof of vaccination be easy to determine?

Some businesses have chosen to mandate vaccines for employees or customers without guidance from provincial governments or to advertise that all their employees are vaccinated. However, those businesses should be aware they could risk costly lawsuits and human rights complaints. 

CFIB encourages business owners to create an open and non-judgemental environment to discuss vaccines with employees. To help businesses navigate these conversations, CFIB has released new guidance, including a downloadable vaccine policy template exclusively for CFIB members.

Small business owners urge provincial governments to adopt a comprehensive “Stay Open” plan that includes rapid testing, clear evidence-based communications around risks and any decisions leading to restrictions, and a focus on hospitalization rates rather than case counts. Direct provincial funding should be in place before any additional COVID restrictions are deployed. 

CFIB is here to ensure business owners have the information they need to manage the health and safety of their employees and customers, and that their concerns are represented as governments consider new public health policies.

- Dan Kelly, President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB

Source for CFIB data
Preliminary results for Your Voice – August 2021 survey. The online survey started August 5, 2021, n = 2,878. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-1.8%, 19 times out of 20.

Final results for Your Voice – April 2021 survey. The online survey was conducted between April 8 and April 30, 2021, n = 5,284. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of +/-1.3%, 19 times out of 20.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at