Saskatchewan

Call a lawyer before asking employees for COVID-19 vaccine history, Sask. privacy commissioner says

Ron Kruzeniski, Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner, said the biggest issue has to do with whether employers have authority to ask if employees have received their COVID-19 vaccine and if it's a necessity for employers to know.

Biggest issues include whether employers have authority to ask, and if it's necessary to know

Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski said it should be determined what employers intend to do with vaccine information before asking for it. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

Saskatchewan's privacy commissioner is advising employers and organizations to speak with their lawyers before asking employees if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ron Kruzeniski, Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner, said there is no simple answer on whether or not someone should be required to disclose their vaccine history.

He said the biggest issue has to do with whether employers have authority to ask if employees have received their COVID-19 vaccine and if it's a necessity for employers to know.

"If you do need to know, and you ask the questions, what are you going to do with it?" Kruzeniski said.

"What's your employer going to do with that? Are they going to ask you to work from home? Are they going to suspend you? Can they find an office [where] you can be totally isolated in?"

"I think every employer and professional organization should check with their lawyer right away."

He said the question is difficult and the answer is not simple. Using drug tests as an example of employers asking about an employee's health, Kruzeniski said this is a parallel comparison. 

"It's the argument between keeping the workplace safe and protecting as much of my personal health privacy as is possible," he said.

Lorian Hardcastle, an assistant professor of law and health policy at the University of Calgary, said as for the legal implications of asking employees if they're vaccinated, there is not "a hard and fast answer."

"In some workplaces it may be wholly inappropriate to ask employees if they're vaccinated just based on the context of their work but in other situations, like long-term care being the quintessential example, it may make sense," she said.

Hardcastle said before these issues come to a head it needs to be determined if employers intend on collecting this information, what they're going to do with it and how they're going to protect it.

"In thinking through these issues, they may well find that in their particular context it doesn't make sense to collect that information," she said.

Hardcastle said it might make sense to collect COVID-19 vaccine history if there is an outbreak in the location or a surge in cases in the area.

She said she thinks the best thing employers can do is to develop policies and figure out these issues now, rather than being reactive.

With files from Blue Sky

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