Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has stated on August 17, 2021 that COVID-19 vaccine policies will also be required in the licensed childcare, education sector, colleges and universities, residential and congregate living settings. The CMOH did share this release that they are now mandatory in high risk settings with policies effective no later than Sept 7, 2021. This is in addition to the release on May 31 for Long Term Care Homes. More details to come.
There are many benefits for all workplaces to have an organization specific COVID-19 vaccine policy. It can be part of the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan considering specific risks in the organization for COVID-19 transmission, provide an opportunity to provide education and awareness to all employees, and promote higher levels of vaccination in the workplace to increase the safety of employees and the public.
In workplaces, vaccination adds to, rather than replaces, the strict adherence to established COVID-19 public health measures. Employers must continue to implement all COVID-19 prevention measures for their sector outlined in Ministry of Labour and provincial regulations and guidelines: screening for symptoms, physical distancing, wearing of masks, hand washing, regular environmental cleaning, and a COVID-19 safety plan.
Workplace COVID-19 Vaccination
Promoting vaccination in the workplace is an important step in ensuring your staff understand the importance of being vaccinated and have an opportunity to receive credible information about vaccines. This will also help them show support for vaccination in the workplace.
Benefits to your employees of being vaccinated
- The vaccines are very safe, and mRNA vaccines provide 88% protection from COVID-19 symptoms and 95% protection from hospitalization 14 days after the second dose.
- When you are more protected from getting COVID-19, it also means people around you are more protected.
- It makes travelling safer, when also following COVID-19 precautions.
- You are more protected and protect others when playing sports and attending other activities or events.
- There is less time off from work or school if you are a close contact of a person who has COVID-19 and have no symptoms.
- You can discuss having close contact without a mask with others who are also fully vaccinated.
- It will help us keep workplaces, businesses and services open with a better quality of life.
Resources you could use for education and promotion in your workplace
- The facts about COVID-19 vaccines (Government of Canada)
- COVID-19 Guidance: Considerations for Antigen Point-of-Care Testing and rapid testing portal for essential businesses in Ontario
- Is It COVID-19, Influenza or Another Illness? Workplace Considerations
Where to get vaccine in the community
- Staff can attend community vaccination clinics or contact their health care provider or a participating pharmacy to make an appointment.
- You can arrange for a workplace in-house clinic if there are sufficient staff (and their family members) who require vaccination. Email [email protected] for more information.
Know what is happening locally
See our reports and dashboards for more information on local COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates.
Resources for Workplace Health and Safety
- Learn how COVID-19 vaccines help protect you and make your workplace safer: COVID-19 vaccines and workplace health and safety
- Get employer information about COVID-19 vaccinations: CCOHS: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Tips: COVID-19 Vaccines: What it Means for Employers
- Get tip sheets and other guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace: CCOHS: COVID-19 Health and Safety Resources
Policy Development Information
Important Note: Each business/organization is responsible to implement their own workplace vaccine policy. The Health Unit can provide information about the elements of a policy, as above. The Health Unit cannot approve another business or organization’s workplace vaccination policy.
How to create a policy:
Getting legal advice before developing or implementing a vaccination policy can help employers understand the implications. This might include advice on topics such as:
- human rights and accessibility
- labour and employment law
- health care consent
- occupational health and safety
COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination: Ethical considerations and caveats (World Health Organization policy brief)
There are some elements that would be important to include in your policy:
- Inform employees. Explain the purpose of the policy and provide clear and strong information on the virus, authorized vaccines, and the vaccination process.
- Outline if vaccines are highly recommended or required, and for which employees, based on an assessment of the risk of being exposed to the virus, and the risk of transmitting the virus to others, in the workplace. Explain the rationale for this policy.
- Discuss the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the general duty clause, and Ontario’s Internal Responsibility System, which set out employer, supervisor and worker duties for keeping the workplace safe in the context of a pandemic.
- Outline what proof of vaccination looks like. For example, seeing a copy of the provincial vaccine clinic record or verbal attestation. From an employer privacy perspective, collect as little vaccine information as possible.
- Discuss exemptions under the Human Rights Code. The code protects workers with disabilities from discrimination. For example, the risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine would be considered a medical disability. Employers are required to accommodate exempted workers, on an individual basis, to the point of undue hardship. Identify how medical exemptions will be handled.
- Address privacy issues. Address these concerns by outlining why you are collecting the information – e.g., to keep all workers safe – describe how you will use it, how securely it will be stored, and the only purposes this information will be used for. It’s always a best practice to secure consent.
See the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services website for this and more information and resources.
What unvaccinated employees do if there is an outbreak
During an outbreak of COVID-19, Public Health will identify who needs to isolate based on their contact with the case and whether they are fully vaccinated. The Policy could include details about the isolation period for non-vaccinated employees e.g. if the time will be paid and for how long.