Ontario Government implements mandatory vaccination policies in high-risk settings
On August 17, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that some high-risk organizations will be required to have mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for employees, staff, contractors, students, and volunteers, starting with hospitals, and home and community care organizations.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued a Directive mandating that hospitals and home and community care service providers must have COVID-19 vaccination policies for employees, staff, contractors, students, and volunteers. The Directive also requires ambulance services to have COVID-19 vaccination policies for paramedics. The mandatory vaccination policies for these employers must be effective no later than September 7, 2021.
Employers covered (“Covered Employers”) by the Directive must establish, implement, and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy which, at a minimum, requires employees, staff, contractors, volunteers, and students to provide:
- Proof of full vaccination; or
- Written proof of a medical reason for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the effective time-period for the medical reason; or
- Proof of completing an educational session approved by the Covered Employer about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination prior to declining vaccination for any reason other than a medical reason. The approved educational session must address, at minimum: (a) how COVID-19 vaccines work; (b) vaccine safety related to the development of COVID-19 vaccines; (c) benefits of vaccination against COVID-19; (d) risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19; and (e) possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination.
Covered Employers are permitted to only accept either proof of full vaccination or written proof of a medical exemption, and remove the option to provide proof of completing an educational session, if the Covered Employer makes an educational session available to all employees, staff, contractors, volunteers, and students.
A Covered Employer’s COVID-19 vaccination policy must also require that those who do not provide proof of full vaccination:
- submit to regular antigen testing and demonstrate a negative test at least once every 7 days;
- provide verification of the negative test result in a manner that allows the Covered Employer to confirm the results of the test.
Covered Employers will also be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the Ontario Government.
The Ontario Government further stated that vaccination policies will be implemented in other high-risk settings including:
- Post-secondary institutions;
- Licensed retirement homes;
- Women’s shelters; and
- Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.
Details on vaccination policies in these settings are expected in the coming days and weeks.
Government of Canada to require vaccination of federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sector
The Ontario Government’s announcement comes shortly after the Government of Canada’s announcement on August 13, 2021, that it intends to require all employees across the federal public service to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as early as the end of September. The announcement clarified that accommodation or alternative measures, such as testing and screening, will be considered on a case-by-case basis for employees who are unable to be vaccinated.
The Government of Canada also announced its intention to require vaccination against COVID-19 for employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors. This requirement is expected to come into force as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October 2021.
Finally, the Government of Canada stated that it expects Crown corporations and other federally regulated employers to require vaccination of employees.
We will continue to monitor developments related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace and will post further updates as information becomes available. For advice specific to your situation, consider contacting your regular lawyer at Rae Christen Jeffries LLP.