August 31, 2021by Israel Foulon LLP
All Businesses Permitted to Reopen Must Implement a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy
On August 24, 2021, the Ontario government published amendments to O. Reg 364/20: Rules For Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step to include:
(2.1) The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, or by a medical officer of health after consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,
(a) requiring the business or organization to establish, implement and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy; or
(b) setting out the precautions and procedures that the business or organization must include in its COVID-19 vaccination policy.
In accordance with the amendments, business operators are required to implement COVID-19 vaccination policies wherever it has been recommended/required by the region’s Chief Medical Officer (“CMO”). This move by the Ontario provincial government comes days after Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s CMO and Toronto Public Health issued a News Release strongly recommending that all businesses/workplaces implement vaccination policies that require at minimum:
- Workers to provide proof of their vaccination series approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization;
- Unvaccinated employees to provide written proof of a medical reason from a physician or nurse practitioner as to why they cannot be vaccinated that includes whether the reason is permanent or time-limited; and
- Unvaccinated workers to complete a vaccination education course on the risks of being unvaccinated in the workplace.
A copy of the news release can be found HERE.
Employers and business operators should use caution when developing their vaccination policies. It is important to point out that neither the legislation, nor Dr. De Villa, have recommended/required that businesses implement vaccination policies which require that all employees mandatorily prove that they are vaccinated as an ongoing condition of employment. The CMO’s in other regions (including Hamilton, Peel, and Halton) have implemented similar recommendations. Business operators should carefully review communications from their regional CMO’s to ensure that they are in compliance with all COVID-19 directives.
Take Away for Employers
As a condition of remaining open, all employers and business operators in Toronto must implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy. The Policy should be tailored to your specific workplace and set out the consequences and/or alternatives for employees who choose not to show proof of vaccination. The Policy should be accompanied by an education campaign based on government and scientific literature that encourages employees to voluntarily seek vaccination.
Depending on the nature of your workplace, employers may still require that employees show proof of vaccination as a condition of employment and/or require frequent ongoing COVID-19 testing. However, any policy must provide clear exceptions for individuals on the basis of religious or medical accommodation.
We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice and assistance with drafting and implementing a vaccination policy in the workplace.
Israel Foulon Wong’s Response to COVID-19
Israel Foulon Wong LLP is assessing the situation as it evolves, and is taking all necessary precautions within its workplace. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and for the health of our team and clients, absent extraordinary circumstances we are working remotely until further notice whenever possible. However, please be aware that our offices remain open and are fully functioning. In the circumstances, we encourage our clients to contact us by phone and email to the extent possible. Voicemail messages left at our office phone numbers are immediately forwarded via email. All messages will be promptly responded to. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our clients and would be more than happy to assist you with concerns regarding COVID-19 or any other employment or labour matters.