What would Quebec's vaccine tax mean for employers?

'It's going to affect how they treat their workforce, and the policies they put in place'

What would Quebec's vaccine tax mean for employers?

Just yesterday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that the province would be imposing a “health contribution” tax on people who are not vaccinated.

Not surprisingly, the move has been met with strong opinions on both sides of the equation.

But what could it mean for employers? Yinka Oyelowo, associate lawyer at Yinka Law in Toronto, for one, has concerns about the impact on marginalized communities.

“I fundamentally believe that applying a tax to unvaccinated individuals can cause severely negative implications for those who are experiencing housing insecurity or food insecurity or who live beneath the poverty line, for example,” she says.

“It just exacerbates some of the social inequalities that exist already, and punishes individuals, for example, for being disabled, being in areas with high incidences of poverty, or coming from racialized or low-income backgrounds.”

However, this kind of tax will also incentivize people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which is a positive thing for employers, says Oyelowo.

“A business owner can [then] guarantee the health and safety of all their workers, and the health and health and safety of their customers.”

Employers will have to stay abreast of the law and keep track of who’s been vaccinated in their workforce, she says.

“It’s going to actually affect how they treat their workforce, and the policies that they put in place for their employees.”

Another potential impact concerns health insurance plans, as unvaccinated people may be penalized, much like plan members who smoke or have other serious health issues.

“Most likely, [employers] will steer clear of individuals who are unvaccinated,” says Oyelowo.

“Unfortunately, what may happen is that there are two classes of people that are developing on the basis of these rules: there's the class of individuals who are vaccinated and then those who are unvaccinated, and those who are unvaccinated are going to be treated differently.”

For more coverage by HRD on this story, click on this link. Sister publication Canadian HR Reporter recently spoke with experts about some of the practical considerations for employers in implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, along with how to handle potentially sensitive employee medical information.


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