List of employers making vaccines -- or testing -- mandatory is growing

As of Oct. 1, spectators won't just need a ticket to get a seat at Scotiabank Centre. 

They'll also need proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test -- and so will staff and suppliers.

"We will be looking for anyone who's working in this facility to provide proof of vaccination before they can do so," said Erin Esiyok-Prime, the director of marketing and communications for Events East, which manages Scotiabank Centre along with the Halifax Convention Centre.

The list of employers soon to require proof of vaccine or test results is growing. It includes the federal government, universities and major banks.

"It is becoming the standard right now in the industry, whether that changes a year from now, we'll continue to assess it," said Esiyok-Prime. 

Tara Erskine, a labour and employment lawyer at Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP said she's been working with employers for months but there seems to be a jumping on the bandwagon in the last couple of weeks.

"I think people were waiting to see who's going to do it first and now that it is becoming more common there's more of a general acceptance," Erskine said.

She said employers have an obligation to provide a safe work place for all employees and so they can require mandatory vaccines and in many cases may provide alternatives — such as frequent rapid testing.

"If an employee refuses to be vaccinated in accordance with the employer's policy then, yes, ultimately they may end up being terminated from employment if they don't have a valid reason," Erskine said, noting there are few medical reasons that allow a person to refuse a vaccine.

"But what is reasonable really depends on the work place. The answer may be different from a nurse refusing to be vaccinated or a teacher versus some other type of employee that doesn't interact with many employees or the public," she said.

While New Brunswick's civil servants and health-care workers will soon require to be vaccinated or show proof of negative tests, Nova Scotia isn't following suit.

"We'll continue to work with public health around the mandatory vaccination and better understand the implications," Health Minister Michelle Thompson said. "I know there are other jurisdictions that have started that and so we want to learn a little bit about their experience as well."

Nan McFadgen, president of CUPE Nova Scotia, said the group supports vaccinations and encourages its members to get vaccinated but didn't say whether or not it should be mandatory.

"Taking a singular position on a single piece of a very dynamic pandemic puzzle just won't work for us," McFadgen said.

David Fraser, a privacy lawyer at McInnes Cooper, said groups should only collect the minimum amount of information and the best way to safeguard the information is to not retain it. While some employers are relying on the honour system, others want proof.

"It should be sufficient just for somebody to take a look at the proof of vaccination, be satisfied that it's genuine, which is difficult at the moment and just record yes or no," Fraser said.

Erskine expects mandatory vaccines will be challenged in court in the coming months and years but similar cases went through the courts regarding SARS vaccines or influenza vaccines.

"Many of those types of policies of mandatory vaccinations or masks policies have been found to be reasonable and that it's an employer's right to request such proof of such vaccination."