COVID-19 vaccination and the workplace
WorkSafeBC strongly supports B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan. This page includes information about the role that vaccination can play in workplace health and safety, along with information about submitting a claim for an adverse reaction to a work-related COVID-19 vaccination.
Please note that callers with questions about COVID-19 vaccination roll-out schedules, including when they may be eligible or how to book appointments for vaccines, should visit the B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan website. Callers with health-related questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination should visit HealthLinkBC or call 811.
Health and safety and vaccination
Vaccination will play a critical role in the prevention of COVID-19 among workers and the public.
WorkSafeBC is encouraging employers to support and facilitate vaccination of workers to the extent they are able. WorkSafeBC is also encouraging workers and the public to receive the vaccine when it is available to them. The province’s phased approach to vaccination is outlined in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan.
B.C. public health officials have indicated that all current restrictions, provincial health officer (PHO) orders, and guidelines remain in place for everyone, regardless of whether they have received the vaccine. Employers are required to maintain their COVID-19 Safety Plan, including all protocols put in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within the workplace. Workers who are fully vaccinated and workers who have had a prior COVID-19 infection need to continue to adhere to their employer's COVID-19 protocols.
Can an employer require a vaccination as a condition of employment?
Every workplace is different, so individual employers should seek legal advice when developing a mandatory vaccination policy, as they need to address not only workplace health and safety and employees’ interests but also consider labour and employment issues.
Claims and vaccination
If a worker has an adverse reaction to a work-related COVID-19 vaccination, the information below will help you determine if a claim should be submitted.
When could an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine be work-related?
If a worker submits a claim for an adverse reaction, injury, or death from the COVID-19 vaccine, it would have to be shown that the adverse reaction, injury, or death arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment. WorkSafeBC considers:
- Whether the COVID-19 vaccination was a mandatory requirement of employment.
- If the worker sustained an injury (or death) as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Was the COVID-19 vaccination a requirement of employment?
To determine whether the worker’s injury or death resulting from the COVID-19 vaccination arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment, WorkSafeBC establishes whether the inoculation or injection was a requirement of the worker’s employment.
The COVID-19 vaccination would be considered to be required by employment if it meets one of the following criteria as outlined by policy in the Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual (page 84):
- The inoculation or injection is required by the employer, either as a condition of employment or as a condition of continued employment. For example:
- The worker is advised by the employer that they cannot work unless they have the vaccination.
- Although the employer has advised that the inoculation or injection is not a condition of employment, without the vaccination, the worker would not be permitted at work if there was an outbreak on the employer’s premises. Examples would include:
- If there is an outbreak of COVID-19, the employer will not permit their non-vaccinated employees to work until the outbreak has passed while vaccinated employees are allowed to continue to work.
- Without the vaccination, the worker is not able to access available extra shifts or duties. For example, a nurse is not able take shifts on a specific ward (i.e., emergency room or COVID-19 unit) unless vaccinated.
- The worker is convinced that it was necessary to receive the inoculation or injection, in spite of objective evidence from the employer that the process was not compulsory. If a worker contends that it was mandatory, WorkSafeBC will investigate the individual merits and circumstances as to why the worker felt the vaccination was a requirement of their employment. The following are examples where it may be reasonable to conclude that the worker was convinced that it was necessary:
- The worker is employed in an industry as outlined in the British Columbia’s Ministry of Health COVID-19 Immunization Plan and high risk category of worksites as outlined in the March 15, 2021, Joint Statement on the First Deployment of AstraZeneca Vaccine in B.C. (or as designated through similar or successor mechanisms or authorities) and the worker felt compelled to receive the vaccination to protect people they work with.
- The worker is convinced they were strongly encouraged by their employer and/or the public health officer to receive the vaccination to protect the high-risk patients, residents, or staff at their place of employment.
Once it is established that the COVID-19 vaccination was a requirement of the worker’s employment, or the worker was convinced that it was necessary for employment, any injury or death that resulted from the vaccination would be considered to arise out of and in the course of the worker’s employment. All claims are adjudicated on the merits and justice of the case.
If the inoculation or injection was received voluntarily by the worker, either as part of a program put on by the employer or in any other circumstances, and the evidence supports that the COVID-19 vaccination was not a requirement or condition of the worker’s employment as noted above, any injury or death resulting from an adverse reaction to the inoculation or injection is not likely to be considered to have arisen in the course of the worker’s employment.