Canadian Lawyer InHouse

August/September 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 17 of 43

16 COVER STORY Bosma: I completely agree with everything Av said. I would also add to that the issue of general wellness — particularly mental wellness of employees — because this has been a really tough time. It has been very hard on people, and so I know we need to focus even more on wellness and making sure that we are listening to employees from the top to the bottom, all over the globe. Petrie: As a public utility at NB Power, we do a large amount of procurement of goods and services and we are really seeing that upward pressure on metals and wood and other raw materials that our utility uses. As a legal team, we have been extremely busy lately looking at law over the contracts and working hand-in- hand with the corporate procurement team, just to take a look at all of the contractual issues that have arisen in these types of situations where these are must-have products that we need. We are reviewing key terms of our supplier agreements to assess the risk of canceled contracts, for instance, versus the potential loss of a supply of key equipment or part or material. Pon: At TDSB, we provide service to a quarter of a million students, 40,000 employees and 600 buildings, so it is an enormous undertaking. We also have different unions involved, so one of the concerns I have is just trying to ensure we can manage all the conflicting opinions on what is the best way to return in a safe manner. When we do return to in-person school, there will still be some version of remote working, I believe, so privacy is going to be a very key issue for us. Ellis: Because we are operating in 30+ different locations, we have just a huge number of different regulatory environments and different vaccines and different access to vaccines. So, part of the challenge for us is trying to create any form of a unified rollout policy when you have so many different local variants of COVID happening, as well as different vaccines being available and different vaccine distribution. The biggest challenge for us is just understanding the requirements and then trying to be consistent while still respecting local compliance. INHOUSE: How do you plan to navigate the question of vaccines for employees and managing those who do not wish to be vaccinated? Bosma: We actually do not foresee this as a really large issue, given the uptake of vaccines so far in the country. Our position has been that we will not be requiring people to be vaccinated, and that is a global position. If there were concerns, we would be managing that through our HR on a case-by-case basis. Maharaj: We started doing some research and hiring external counsel to find out what the law is going to be, and I am sure all my colleagues on this call have done the same thing. We are not going to demand people get the vaccine, though we strongly encourage it. Ellis: We are not mandating, but we are supporting and encouraging being vaccinat- ed. A big part of what we are finding is that our customers and other business partners are also pushing us in that direction, and I think that is helping with some of the hesitancy we are seeing. It is similar to early discussions around the roll out of masks. One of the things I am quite proud of has been our top-down approach to communication around these safety measures. These are not political statements at a site level; a message was delivered consistently throughout the discussions around PBE. And that is carried through the vaccine side as well. It is in everyone's interest to get back to normal personally and professionally as soon as possible, but we are not mandating it. Pon: Since the very beginning, we have been working closely with Toronto Public Health. We also take guidance and direction from the minister of education. When it came to masks, our legal department "When we do return to in-person school, there will still be some version of remote working, I believe, so privacy is going to be a very key issue for us." Leola Pon, Toronto District School Board

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