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Vaccines and your business: what you need to know

After months of lockdowns and restrictions, the vast majority of Canada’s small businesses are finally open to the public once again. This is good news, and we are working hard to ensure governments create “Stay Open” strategies to face any further waves or variants without resorting to lockdowns or capacity restrictions on businesses.

Looking for a vaccination policy template?
CFIB Members can download it here

Vaccine passports are now in place in all provinces

One strategy that is being used across the country is vaccine “passports,” or proof of vaccination policies.

  • National: As of October 30, travellers must be fully vaccinated to board a plane, train, or cruise ship for travel within Canada. There is a temporary grace period until November 30 where travellers can show a negative COVID-19 test instead. Travellers must also show proof of vaccination when leaving Canada. Learn more here.
  • Alberta: As of September 20, certain businesses and events must either implement the Restrictions Exemption Program - which requires proof of vaccination or a negative test result plus mandatory masking - to continue operation as usual, or comply with the latest public health restrictions. Learn more here.
  • British Columbia: As of October 24, individuals must be fully vaccinated to access certain indoor activities and businesses, including concerts, sporting events, dining, gyms, workshops, and weddings. Learn more here, including how to download the BC Vaccine Card Verifier app or verify proof visually.
  • Manitoba: Manitoba residents are able to download their immunization card to access certain non-essential settings based on current public health orders. Learn more here, including how to download the Manitoba Immunization Verifier app.
  • New Brunswick: As of September 22, certain New Brunswick businesses must require proof of vaccination from those 12 and over to access certain businesses, services, and events, such as indoor and outdoor dining, movie theatres, nightclubs, and group exercise facilities. Learn more here.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: As of October 22, mandatory proof of vaccination in the form of a QR code is required to access non-essential businesses and venues. Learn more here, including how to download the NLVaxVerify app for affected businesses.
  • Nova Scotia: As of October 4, Nova Scotia requires proof of vaccination from those 12 and over who wish to participate in non-essential activities, such as going to restaurants, bars, concerts, and fitness facilities. Learn more here.
  • Ontario: As of September 22, Ontario implemented mandatory proof of vaccination at certain businesses. This includes indoor dining, nightclubs, sporting events, gyms, meeting spaces and casinos. See the full list of affected businesses. Consumers can show their vaccine receipt or enhanced vaccine certificate (QR code). Visit our FAQ page to learn more, including how to download the Verify Ontario app for businesses.
  • Prince Edward Island: As of October 5, PEI implemented the Vax Pass Program, mandating those 12 and over to provide proof of vaccination to access certain businesses, services, and events. Learn more here.
  • Quebec: As of September 1, Quebec mandated proof of vaccination for those 13 and over to access certain places and non-essential activities, including bars, restaurants, and gyms. Learn more here.
  • Saskatchewan: As of October 1, Saskatchewan implemented proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test as a requirement to access some businesses, establishments, and event venues. Learn more here about affected businesses, exemptions, and how to download the SK Vax Verified app.

While some business owners may welcome the use of a vaccine credential with employees and/or customers as an alternative to lockdowns, CFIB has several significant concerns and wants you to understand the risks. There are serious privacy and human rights considerations involved, and a business could face an expensive legal process just as they are getting on their on their feet. We are also concerned about the ability of small businesses to effectively implement a process to check credentials. For example, asking a young retail clerk or restaurant host to ask about someone’s health records would put them in an incredibly delicate position.

Can a business require employees or customers to get vaccinated?

CFIB has worked with a law firm to create a vaccine policy template that can help business owners talk about vaccines with their employees. We do not recommend business owners impose a requirement that employees or its customers be vaccinated.

We are starting to see governments mandate vaccines for certain sectors. However, these announcements do not change the legal risks for small businesses, who should still tread carefully if considering requiring staff or customers to be vaccinated.

CFIB is on the board of the POST Promise (People Outside Safely Together), which urges businesses to take a pledge to do five things to protect employees and staff from COVID. We prefer voluntary actions like POST over mandatory approaches.

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September 24, 2021

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Topics in this Article: Health & Safety

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