London

Want to work at this London law firm? You'll have to get your shot

The head of a London law firm hopes the province will make workplace vaccines mandatory in the near future.

The London Chamber of Commerce says many employers are considering their position on mandating vaccines

McKenzie Lake Laywers is a firm located in downtown London, Ont. (Amanda Margison/CBC News)

The head of a London law firm is taking steps to ensure his staff is double-dosed, and hopes the province will make vaccines mandatory in the near future.

Managing partner Michael Peerless said McKenzie Lake Lawyers will make it mandatory for new hires to be vaccinated with current employees already vaccinated or preparing to get a second dose. The firm employs 150 people. 

"We haven't made it mandatory because we haven't had to yet," Peerless said. 

But he added if any employee had refused, he would have helped them "find another place to work." 

Michael Peerless, managing partner at McKenzie Lake Lawyers, said that he would most likely make it mandatory for all new hires to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Provided by Michael Peerless)

"Ultimately, my responsibility is to everybody, not just for that one person," Peerless said. "And so it would be very hard for me to balance this in favour of that person who doesn't want to get vaccinated in the face of a serious public health issue, the most serious one in my lifetime, when I also have to protect the people who have a 12-year-old or younger children who might somehow take that virus home to them." 

He added that the Ontario government would be doing the right thing in making the vaccine mandatory in all workplaces. 

"It would actually help to solve this problem for everybody," Peerless said. "And it would take the issue away from individual businesses, some of whom are definitely feeling pressure, and make it easier for them to just do the right thing." 

Law on the issue is in "flux"

Graham Henderson, a former lawyer and CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce, said that while many employers are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, the law on the issue is in flux. 

"I think we're going to get to the point where we're all at 80 per cent (of people vaccinated), so there's going to be a small minority of people who aren't," Henderson said, adding employers might have a duty of care they need to exercise.

For now, employers will have to concentrate on establishing their own company policies, and it could be a challenge for office-based organizations to make the vaccine mandatory.

Graham Henderson is CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce. He said it may be challenging for an office-based environment to make vaccines mandatory. (Provided by Graham Henderson)

"If you adopt a policy that vaccination is required, then you're going to need to have a clear basis as to the reasons why," Henderson said. 

Employers pushing for an all-vaccinated staff will have to cite safety concerns, as well as there being no alternatives to socially distancing or working from home. 

Exemptions for religious and medical grounds will also have to be considered.  

As of July 21, a hundred per cent of the McKenzie Lake staff has been vaccinated with their first dose, and 89 per cent have had their second. 

Peerless said that the firm assisted employees in finding appointments, and gave them a paid day off to get the shot. After having a talk, he said he was able to convince the few employees who were hesitant. 

"It seems to all of us that it makes sense for us to take care of each other," he said. "The best way to do that pretty clearly was to get everybody vaccinated so that we would be part of the solution and not part of the problem."

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