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Lawyer says Sask. businesses can still require proof of COVID-19 vaccine after mandate ends

As Saskatchewan prepares to lift its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Monday, a lawyer says businesses can still require proof of vaccination from employees and members of the public depending on the environment in which they work.

“An employer still has an obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure that there’s a safe working environment for their employees and it doesn’t change the fact that employees have a right to come to work and feel safe,” said Brittany Taylor, a partner and employment lawyer with Rudner Law in Markham, Ont.

Taylor said a business’ decision to continue with the vaccine mandate once it’s expired can be legally challenged. She said it all depends on the risk level and whether they’re working with vulnerable populations.

“If the government is telling us it’s not required to be vaccinated, it’s safe, go about your normal business, it may be harder for employers to justify that infringement on employee privacy because the messaging is now perhaps shifting a bit to no, it’s not dire, it’s not actually that big of a safety concern,” Taylor said.

“If there are really no other ways to ensure health and safety then vaccine mandates may be acceptable and in fact, required.”

Taylor said it all boils down to balancing people’s rights.

“We’re talking about an employer’s right and obligation to ensure safety in the workplace, we’re talking about an employee’s privacy rights. We’re also talking about an employee’s right to be free from discrimination because as we know, there are people who legitimately cannot get vaccinated for protected reasons … so, these are all interests that need to be balanced.”

Taylor said businesses should consult with an employment lawyer as each workplace has different needs and work conditions.

That same advice was given by Premier Scott Moe on Tuesday at a provincial COVID-19 press conference.

“My advice would be to consult a lawyer because the protections that the provincial government provided will no longer be there and they may open themselves up to some vulnerability,” he said.

Grassroots Restaurant Group, which operates three restaurants in Saskatoon and two in Regina, supports the move and will no longer ask for proof of vaccination or a negative test result starting next week.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s a safe, good place to come and have that experience again. At the same time, it does have to end eventually and we do need to go back to our old normal or close to that,” said Dale Mackay, chef and co-owner of Grassroots Restaurant Group.

Mackay said they will still require staff to wear masks for the foreseeable future even when that mandate is lifted at the end of the month.

“It’s a fine line that we’ve got to walk. We just want to make sure everybody feels comfortable and we also want our staff to feel comfortable once mandates are gone,” he said.

The Broadway Theatre will be returning to regular capacity, but will still require mask and vaccine proof for all patrons, according to a post on its social media.

It said it is installing live-streaming equipment so people can still access events if they are not able to get vaccinated or wear a mask.

“We appreciate your ongoing cooperation as we move forward with programming and events in this fashion,” the post said.

High Noon Barber Shop also took to social media, saying it will be keeping its mask and vaccine measures in place “until we feel more confident in the safety of our staff, clients and community.”

Everyone will be required to wear a mask, proof of vaccination is required for clients accessing mask-free services, and barbers can choose whether they’re comfortable offering mask-free services, according to the post. Top Stories

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