Last updated: September 20, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Promoting vaccine uptake is important to help reduce COVID-19 workplace outbreaks and build confidence for a safer return to work. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect your workplace from the risks of COVID-19. It is safe and highly effective at reducing virus spread and protecting against serious illness.

Workplaces can help encourage vaccination by creating a supportive environment that makes it easier for workers to get vaccinated, and by providing information from trusted sources. COVID-19 vaccination provides an important layer of protection for workers, their families and the community.

Toronto Public Health is seeking feedback on the resources found on this page to help inform future COVID-19 resource development for workplaces. If you would like to provide feedback, please complete a short survey.

Employers can encourage employees to get vaccinated and support increased vaccination uptake with a few simple steps:

  • Lead by example and get fully vaccinated.
  • Share your reasons for getting the vaccine.
  • Consider recruiting workplace vaccine champions to help staff understand the benefits of getting vaccinated.
  • Post information about nearby vaccination clinics in common areas.
  • Offer flexible work hours, or paid time off for employees to go get vaccinated.
  • Consider use of incentives for voluntary disclosure of vaccination status.

Many people want to get vaccinated however they may not have the opportunity or the time to get their COVID-19 vaccines. For example, people may not live or work close to a clinic, or they may be concerned about side effects or unsure how to get vaccinated without a health card.

Resources:

Employers have an obligation to maintain a safe work environment for their workers. To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a workplace vaccination policy is an important measure employers should implement to protect their workers and the public.

Assess your workplace risk of transmission by considering the following:

  • Does your workforce have a high vaccination rate?
  • Can workers keep at least two metres apart while performing their work?
  • Are workers required to be in close contact with others?
  • How long and how often are workers in close contact with other workers or patrons?
  • Does your workplace have physical barriers when workers cannot keep distance from each other, good ventilation and personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers?
  • Do you have workers who may be at risk for severe illness from COVID-19? Some people may have reduced immunity due to age, pre-existing health conditions or medical treatments.
  • Is your workplace able to offer alternative work for people who require accommodation, for example remote work?

The workplace policy should adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code  and privacy laws.

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.

Key Components in a Vaccination Policy

1. Identify the scope and purpose.

  • Explain purpose of the policy including the risks of COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect workers. The Delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious, with greater risk for severe illness and hospitalization.
  • Explain who the policy applies to. Will the policy apply to all workers, contractors, and/or agency staff? Is there a separate policy for customers?
  • Have a clear communication plan to inform workers about the policy.

2. List action steps workers must take.

When necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, workplace policies should require workers to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated. Alternatively, workers may need to:

  • Indicate that they have a medical exemption, including if the reasons are temporary or permanent. The medical exemption should be written by a licenced doctor or nurse practitioner and does not need to include the reason for the exemption.
  • Complete a vaccination education course, with a signed declaration stating that they understand the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination. The vaccination education course should include information on:
    • How the COVID-19 vaccines work;
    • Vaccine safety related to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines;
    • The benefits of vaccination against COVID-19;
    • Risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19; and
    • Possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination.

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.

3. Set deadlines for when the actions must be taken.

Specify a reasonable date when workers must demonstrate compliance with the workplace policy.

4. List available supports for vaccination.

Demonstrate your commitment to supporting workers to get vaccinated. Ways to support workers to get vaccinated include:

  • Providing vaccine information from credible sources or translated resources
  • Supporting vaccine champions to initiate conversations with their peers
  • Providing paid leave to get vaccinated
  • Reminding workers that they are entitled to up to three paid sick days, if they have side effects from the vaccine
  • Offering incentives such as gift cards, prizes or company swag
  • Hosting an on-site vaccination clinic

5. Provisions for Unvaccinated Workers

Your policy should list alternative options for workers who decline to get vaccinated for reasons protected by the Human Rights Act, or who are unable to complete their vaccination series for medical reasons. Some options to consider include:

  • Use of additional PPE, frequent COVID-19 testing, worker relocation, and modified work or reassignments.
  • In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers (who have only received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series) are not be permitted to work in the outbreak area. Workers without vaccination records should be assumed to be unvaccinated.
  • If reassignment is not possible, consider if unvaccinated workers may use vacation or unpaid leave until it is safe for them to return to the workplace.

6. Non-Compliance

  • Outline the potential consequences for workers who do not fulfill the requirements of the policy.

7. Privacy considerations

The policy should specify how individual vaccination status of employees 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 provide proof of vaccination, they must comply with applicable privacy legislation that governs the need to keep personal information/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:

  • Identify ways to safeguard workers’ personal information/personal health information.
  • Ensure personal information, including personal health/vaccination information, is kept in a secure manner and only used for the valid purpose for which it is collected.

See information on how employees can get their vaccination receipt.

8. Staff contact

  • Identify who at your organization staff should contact with questions about the policy, to request accommodation, or for more information how to comply with the policy. The policy should also indicate the person to whom workers should provide proof of vaccination.

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.

Resources:

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:

  • You have a business or are representing an organization in the City of Toronto (postal code beginning with M). If your business or organization is outside Toronto, please use the Provincial Public Health Unit Locator to find your local public health unit; and
  • You are the person(s) responsible for your business or organization

Express interest in hosting an on-site vaccination clinic

Ontario workers may qualify for up to three days of paid sick leave under provincial legislation. The pay is at regular wages, up to $200 per day. Workers may take time off work to get vaccinated or if they have side effects from the vaccine. However, the three days are not in addition to existing paid sick days, if offered by the employer.

Employers may apply for reimbursement from the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) for payment made under this sick leave program. The program is currently retroactive to April 19, 2021 and has been extended to December 31, 2021.

Resources:

More information about sick leave during COVID-19:

COVID-19 Vaccination Education Module

Workplace policies should require workers who do not provide proof of vaccination to complete a vaccination education module with a signed declaration that they understand the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination. Employers can use Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination: Understanding the Benefits and Risks module for this purpose.

Launch COVID-19 Vaccination: Understanding the Benefits and Risks

Vaccine Posters, Graphics and Other Resources

  • Vaccine-related posters, graphics and other resources are available in multiple languages on the Vaccine Resources page. The page includes information on many vaccine-related topics to help you share credible, accurate information with workers. You can use the search feature in the top right corner of the section to search for information by topic or language.
  • Information about COVID-19 vaccines
  • How to get vaccinated
  • VaxFacts: A free service that connects residents with Scarborough Health Network doctors to help answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Workplaces can encourage workers who have questions about the vaccines to book a VaxFacts appointment for one-to-one phone consultation with a doctor.

Supporting Employee Mental Health

Vaccination and COVID-19 prevention measures in workplaces

Workplace vaccination policies and getting vaccinated are important tools to help protect your workplace. COVID-19 prevention and control measures are still required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. After vaccination, continue to follow public health measures outlined in Toronto Public Health’s guidance for employers, businesses and workplaces to help keep your workplace safe.

Testing after Vaccination

Continue to screen employees daily using the staff screening questionnaire for COVID-19 symptoms, even after they have been vaccinated. If they have symptoms, ask them to go get tested. Vaccination can prevent severe illness from COVID-19, however people can still spread the virus to others.

Self-Isolation after Vaccination

If an employee is fully vaccinated and then exposed to some who tests positive, they do not need to self-isolate if they do not have symptoms. If they are fully vaccinated and have symptoms, they must self-isolate immediately and get tested.

Resources: