Last updated: July 21, 2021 at 6:22 p.m.
The COVID-19 vaccine, including a booster dose, is the best way to protect against becoming seriously sick from COVID-19 and its variants. Vaccines approved in Canada are safe and effective. They have been carefully studied with billions of doses given around the world.
Promoting vaccination helps to increase workplace safety. Employers can help encourage vaccination by making it easier for workers to get vaccinated, and providing information from trusted sources. COVID-19 vaccination is an important layer of protection for workers, their families and the community, especially as public health measures such as capacity limits and physical distancing are lifted.
Employers can encourage employees to get vaccinated with a few simple steps:
The characteristics of a workplace vaccination policy should take into consideration the workplace risk of transmission and severe illness. Assess your workplace risk by considering the following:
Please note: the information provided on this webpage does not contain legal advice and should not be relied on or treated as legal advice; those for whom these recommendations are intended may seek their own legal advice for their specific circumstance.
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, workplace policies should require workers to provide proof that they are vaccinated. Employees should be encouraged to stay up-to-date on all their recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster doses, when eligible.
Workers who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated should be required to:
Workers may request an exemption based on the Ontario Human Rights Code. Read the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Questions and Answers summary to learn more about an individual’s human rights and their obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legal consultation is recommended for any institutions seeking to establish an exemption policy in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Specify a reasonable date when workers must demonstrate compliance with the workplace policy.
Demonstrate your commitment to supporting workers to get vaccinated, such as:
Your policy can list alternative options for workers who decline to get vaccinated, such as those with medical exemptions. Some options to consider include: use of additional PPE, frequent COVID-19 rapid antigen testing, worker relocation, and modified work or reassignments.
Outline the potential consequences for workers who do not fulfill the requirements of the policy. Seek legal advice when developing and implementing any consequences.
The policy should specify how individual employee vaccination status will be used by employers to mitigate the health-related risks of COVID-19. Knowing your workers’ vaccination status may be important to help you take appropriate action quickly, in the event of COVID-19 cases in your workplace, to protect employees, their families, and the general public.
Employers collecting proof of vaccination must comply with applicable privacy legislation that governs the need to keep personal/health information confidential and secure. Employers are encouraged to seek legal advice regarding the privacy obligations that apply to their particular workplace.
When collecting information about a worker’s vaccination status:
See information on how employees can get their vaccination receipt.
While strongly encouraged, these recommendations are voluntary, and are not intended to be legally enforceable under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.
Employers interested in hosting an on-site vaccination clinic are invited to complete a short survey to register for an initial assessment call. The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.
Please only complete the survey if:
Ontario workers may qualify for up to three days of paid sick leave under provincial legislation. They may take time off work to get vaccinated or if they have side effects from the vaccine. Employers can apply for reimbursement for this paid leave. The program is currently retroactive to April 19, 2021 and has been extended to March 31, 2023. Visit the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit page to learn more.
Employers can use Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination: Understanding the Benefits and Risks module to ensure employees understand the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
Workplace vaccination policies and getting vaccinated are important tools to help protect your workplace. After vaccination, continue to follow public health guidance to help keep your workplace safe. Visit COVID-19 Guidance: Employers, Businesses & Organizations.
Consider posting signs in visible locations for staff and patrons to screen themselves before entering the premises. If they have symptoms, ask them to stay home and self-isolate. Vaccination can prevent severe illness from COVID-19, however people can still spread the virus to others.
If an employee is exposed to someone with symptoms of COVID-19 or who tests positive for COVID-19, they may need to self-isolate. Self-isolation can change depending on an employee’s vaccination status. Learn more about What to Do If You are a Close Contact.
If the employee develops symptoms, they must self-isolate immediately, regardless of vaccination status. See What to Do If You Have COVID-19 Symptoms.
Employees may feel hesitant, anxious or fearful of returning to work premises, even if they are up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Be flexible, empathic and open to questions to increase employee confidence in returning to the workplace.
Having a high vaccination rate will protect employee health, reduce absenteeism, support business re-opening, and promote employee confidence for a safer return to work.
Vaccination can prevent severe illness from COVID-19. However, people can still spread the virus to others. Refer to the guidance for employers, businesses and organizations for more information on infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures to help keep your workplace safe.
Inform staff and patrons about the measures in place to keep everyone safe. Include a section on how to support high-risk employees and/or patrons who are over 70 years old; pregnant and/or people with health conditions, when possible.
A safe return to work for employees includes supporting mental health in the workplace. Providing opportunities for employees to openly discuss their concerns about returning to in person work will help to develop a culture of support. COVID-19 has made life more challenging for all of us. Encourage employees to access support by calling 2-1-1 or visiting the COVID-19 Mental Health Resources page for a diverse list of services. Also refer to the Tip Sheet for Managing Stress and Anxiety.