Ontario Human Rights Commission policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates
September 22, 2021
On September 1, 2021, the Ontario government announced that starting September 22, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide proof of vaccination along with photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities. By October 22, Ontario plans to develop and implement an enhanced digital vaccine certificate with unique QR (Quick Response) code that will verify vaccination status when scanned. A paper version of the certificate will be available for download or can be printed from the COVID-19 vaccination provincial portal.
The proof of vaccine regime currently applies to certain higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn. In addition to these settings, over the last few months many other organizations have begun to mandate vaccines for employees and service users.
On September 22, 2021, the Ontario Human Rights Commission issued a policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates. This policy statement covers:
- vaccine requirements
- duty to accommodate for medical reasons
- COVID testing as an alternative to vaccine requirements
- Time limited requirements, privacy protection
- Barriers in accessing COVID vaccines and testing
- Personal preferences and singular beliefs (not protected)
To read this important policy statement in full, click here.
Employee Vaccination Requirements
September 24, 2021 update
“There is currently no legislation requiring workers to notify their employers when they have received the vaccine,” said Puneet Tiwari, legal counsel at HR consulting firm Peninsula Canada. “However, providing your employer with this information can be helpful to them in making health and safety decisions for the workplace.”
Can employers ask workers if they got the vaccine?
Employers may require workers to disclose whether they’ve received the vaccine, similarly to how they can ask for other medical evidence such as sick notes, according to Tiwari.
However, employers need to be careful, he said.
“It matters how much information the employer requires, as too much personal health information could result in a breach of privacy. Employers are advised to limit questions to whether the employee has received a vaccine, and which brand they received. The latter may be important in the future if certain vaccines turn out to be effective only for a limited time,” said Tiwari.
“This requirement should be clearly stated in a policy that explains what type of supporting documentation is required (for example: a document proving vaccination status).”
Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and the vaccination status of workers can be important information to have in order to do this.
Can employers share workers’ vaccination information?
Co-workers and customers to the business might be concerned about their safety and ask whether all or specific workers on shift have been vaccinated.
“Employers do not have the right to disclose their workers’ personal health information as it is private, and they have a duty to protect the confidentiality of workers’ medical records. This sensitive information may only be shared with others where it pertains to the employer’s duty to accommodate their employee,” said Tiwari.
To assure co-workers and visitors of their safety, employers can confirm that the employee in question has been screened according to health and safety guidelines and is able to work.
What if an employee does not get vaccinated?
If the employer asks a worker if they’ve received the vaccine and they haven’t, the employer must be careful not to discriminate against them. There is currently no legislation requiring anyone to get vaccinated, therefore vaccination is not mandatory.
Employers may be able to justify vaccination as a requirement for employees depending on the type of work they do. However, employers are advised to have a company policy on vaccinations explaining health and safety concerns and why vaccination might be a necessary condition of employment.
In some cases, workers may not be able to get vaccinated because of a health condition, disability, or due to their religious beliefs. Disability and creed are grounds protected under human rights legislation.
Employers cannot discriminate against, discipline or terminate workers for refusing to get a vaccine for these reasons. Doing so may open their business to risks of discrimination, human rights or wrongful dismissal claims. The employer should explore accommodating the employee in these circumstances.
Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.
Canada COVID-19 Vaccination Website
English and en Français
Provincial vaccine websites below in EN and FR where available
Provincial Vaccination Websites
Alberta - EN only
British Columbia - EN only
Manitoba - EN
Manitoba - FR
New Brunswick - EN
Nouveau Brunswick - FR
Nova Scotia - EN
Nova Scotia - FR
Nunavut - EN
Nunavut - FR
Ontario - EN
Ontario - FR
Prince Edward Island - EN
Prince Edward Island - FR
Québec - EN
Québec - FR
Saskatchewan - EN
Saskatchewan - FR
Yukon Territories - EN
Yukon Territories - FR