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Ask a Vexxpert Podcast Episode 22: Decisions, decisions: Should my company have a COVID vaccination policy?

5 min. readbyVexxit StaffonDecember 02, 2021
There’s no handbook on operating a business through a pandemic—or, at least, there wasn’t when COVID-19 struck. Business leaders faced hard decisions, then and now, as they navigate vaccination policies in the workplace.

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Today, we look to one business as an example of how to navigate the decisions and rollout surrounding a vaccination policy. Our guests, Dawn Haus and Dan Hursh join us from True North Sports + Entertainment, the owner and operator of Canada Life Centre in downtown Winnipeg, the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

Dawn joins us as the Vice President of Human Resources and Dan as Vice President & General Counsel of True North Sports + Entertainment. They both bring their professional faculties and their love of the game to True North. Dawn as a board member of the St. James Assiniboia Minor Hockey Association and Dan with his years on the ice playing four years of NCAA hockey at Princeton University. Together, they fill us in on what worked for their organization and the people in it, as they developed a vaccination policy that helped them get back to business.

Consult with key players

Figuring out how to host fans and carry on operations at an indoor venue was a challenge with the COVID-19 vaccine presenting a possible solution.

In consulting with employees, there was a general understanding that vaccinations were the way to go, Dawn explains.

The next step was legal advice—both internal and external—to determine what a vaccination policy might look like. With the potential for claims involving wrongful dismissal to human rights and privacy violations, it was important to consult a broad scope of legal expertise.

Look at the big picture

Human resources and legal considerations may have been at the core of the vaccination policy issue, but they weren’t the only considerations.

“We are a fairly public-facing business,” Dan says, explaining that management had to contemplate potential PR considerations, both positive and negative.

It was also critical to think of True North’s patrons.

“It didn’t seem right to have employees of ours working events but not have patrons be fully vaccinated and vice versa,” Dan says.

Consider the flip side

“It wasn’t just, who might be impacted or upset if we implemented a policy among our employee group?” Dan says, “but who might be impacted or upset if we didn’t implement a policy? And we tried to look at it from that perspective, too.”

Keep it clear and simple

“The approach we ended up taking was a pretty black-and-white approach,” Dan says. “We felt it was the simplest and most efficient way to go about it, and really, that involved all full and part-time employees having to be fully vaccinated by a set date.”

The policy itself outlined what “fully vaccinated” meant, along with steps for those seeking accommodations, details on privacy and storage of information, and the repercussions for not complying with the policy—namely, not being able to enter the workplace, and disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Provide adequate lead time

With a waiting period required between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses, and another waiting period for the second dose to take effect, it was important to build in enough lead time between the policy rollout and the vaccination requirement.

Communicate

Not everyone is going to agree with the policy you’ve set out, as was the case for True North.

There were some hard conversations, Dawn says, but ultimately it came down to a decision made by either side rather than a debate.

“It was just about listening to their reasons and then accepting it,” she says. “That’s their choice, but we also have a job and a duty to keep everybody else safe and that’s what we had to do.”

Do what’s best for your business

There were conversations with other clubs and venues, Dan says, with everyone seemingly waiting for the other to go first.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what works for your people and your business.

“Ultimately, what’s best for our people and what’s best for our business are always kind of at the forefront for us,” says Dan. “The pandemic has just reinforced that for us, and I think, importantly, in that order.”

Be prepared to evolve

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, which means being open to change as it happens.

“We put a policy in place that made sense when we put it in place,” says Dan, “understanding that our policy might evolve a little bit over time.”

Preparing for the curveballs that come your way will benefit your people and your business in the long run.

For more helpful advice on setting up a vaccination policy, listen to the full episode on Ask a Vexxpert, Canada’s leading podcast for leaders and entrepreneurs. Ask a Vexxpert is available at vexxit.com/podcast and everywhere you stream podcasts.

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