Thursday, September 2, 2021

FAQs on provincial COVID-19 vaccination policy

The provincial government has brought in a COVID-19 vaccination policy for its employees in Parts I, II, III, and IV. In order to help our members navigate and understand this new addition to their work lives, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) has compiled a list of questions.
When does the policy come into effect?
The policy comes into effect on Sept. 7, 2021. For those working in the public schools, it will come into effect on Aug. 30. Employees in Parts I and III will have until Sept. 13, 2021 to provide proof of vaccination – two doses – to their employer. Those in Part II will have until Sept. 3, 2021 to provide confirmation.
Is it mandatory?
The term mandatory vaccination program has been used to describe the policy. However, that is not accurate.
The government is requiring that all employees show proof of full vaccination – both shots of an approved vaccine against COVID-19. However, if a person does not wish to get the vaccine or is partially vaccinated, the employee will be required to wear a mask in the workplace and undergo regular testing for COVID-19.
How do I provide my employer with proof of vaccination?
Each department will let employees know how to provide proof but will not keep a record of your vaccination. Instead, a list will be maintained of those who have provided proof. The list will be updated as new names are added and distributed to managers as necessary.
For members working in Part III, Employee Health Services will contact those who do not have a record of their COVID-19 vaccination in their Public Health file. These members will be required to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
What if I do not provide proof or do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Employees who do not want to provide proof or take the COVID-19 vaccine will be required to always wear a mask in their workplace with the exception being when they are alone at their personal workspace.
As well, those employees will also be required to test themselves three times a week for COVID-19. This will be done through Point of Care Testing (POCT) kits. You will need to provide the results to the employer. The kits will be provided to employees by the employer and can be done at home. A smartphone/tablet app will be made available allowing the employees to share the test results through the app.
For employees in Parts I and III, the POCT tests can be done at home. For those in Part II, the POCT test will be coordinated by the school or district.
In addition, unvaccinated employees or those who do not want to show proof of vaccination will also be required to schedule and take a monthly Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19. The PCR test is the commonly used nasal swab test. The employee will provide results of the test to the employer.
Are their exemptions?
Yes. Those who provide a certificate of medical exemption to the vaccine will not be required to wear a mask, but will be required to follow the testing requirements.
Does this policy violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the New Brunswick Human Rights Act?
Is it legal?
The policy does not break any law and no one is being forced to take the vaccine. At this point the NBU does not intend to challenge it as the majority of our members support it and it meets the KVP rules.
What are the KVP principles?
Named after a case from 1965, the KVP rules are used by arbitrators to determine if a unilaterally imposed policy or rule by the employer is enforceable. The policy or rule is deemed enforceable if it meets the following conditions:
• It must not be inconsistent with the collective agreement;
• It must not be unreasonable;
• It must be clear and unequivocal;
• It must be brought to the attention of the employee affected before the company can act on it;
• The employee concerned must have been notified that a breach of the rule could result in his discharge (if the rule is used as a basis for discharge); and
• It should have been consistently enforced by the company from the time it was introduced.
What happens if I refuse to be tested or don’t wear the required mask?
Once again, no one is being forced to take the vaccine. However, you could be subject to disciplinary measure if you refuse to be tested, do not wear the mask when required or falsify test results.
What happens if I test positive?
If you test positive using one of the POCT tests at home, you will have to schedule a PCR test. You will need to remain at home until the results of the PCR test come back. During this time you can work from home if you are set up to do so and feel well enough.
If an outbreak occurs in the workplace, testing requirements may be modified based on guidance from Public Health.