TransLink suspends COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Workers, contractors and visitors of B.C. Rapid Transit Company, West Coast Express, TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company and Metro Vancouver Transit Police will no longer be required to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19, and those employees currently on unpaid leave will be able to return to the workplace.

TransLink said employees still seeking vaccinations will receive up to three consecutive hours of paid leave for each dose, as per the Employment Standards Act | Photo: Emma Crawford

TransLink’s vaccine mandate is over. 

A Nov. 28 staff memo announced the mandatory vaccination policy is suspended effective Thursday for all workers, contractors and visitors of B.C. Rapid Transit Company, West Coast Express, TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company and Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

"Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will no longer be required and employees who are currently on an unpaid leave of absence will be invited back to the workplace,” said the memo from BCRTC president Sany Zein. “Additionally, new employees hired after Dec. 1 will not be required to declare their vaccination status.”

The policy had been subject to “ongoing re-evaluation since its implementation.” TransLink pledged to continue to monitor provincial health guidelines, but isn’t closing the door on reinstating a vaccine requirement.  

“As federal and provincial restrictions continue to ease, we believe suspending our policy at this time is the right decision. Rest assured this decision was not made lightly.”

Employees on leave of absence due to refusing vaccination must declare their intent to return to work by Dec. 23, but are eligible to return Dec. 1. The memo said incumbent workers are entitled to return to their prior role or an equivalent role. 

“The topic of COVID-19 vaccination is a difficult one, but no matter your vaccination status, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. It is important that we are all committed to creating a respectful, kind, and considerate workplace, irrespective of your colleagues' choices.”

TransLink also reiterated that employees still seeking vaccinations will receive up to three consecutive hours of paid leave for each dose, as per the Employment Standards Act.

Each TransLink division maintains a communicable disease prevention plan, which still calls for employees and contractors to conduct a self-assessment before coming to work, and to not enter the workplace if feeling unwell, even with mild symptoms.

BCRTC, however, maintains a self-isolation policy, despite Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Nov. 17 announcement that the infected must quarantine. TransLink’s occupational health office will no longer require employees provide notification of a positive test.

The FAQ also emphasized employees are allowed to take up to three consecutive hours of paid leave for each COVID-19 vaccine dose, under the Employment Standards Act. 

“Please keep in mind that BCRTC operates an essential service for Metro Vancouver and employees are encouraged to schedule vaccination appointments while off-shift,” said the document. 

The change in policy coincides with the TransLink board’s last scheduled meeting of 2022 on Dec. 1. A report from CEO Kevin Quinn says that ridership reached 76.2% of pre-pandemic levels during the first week of November. Weekend ridership is growing faster than weekdays, because many downtown Vancouver workers are continuing to spend some or all of their time working from home.