OHS Canada Magazine

Several Ontario municipalities keep vaccine mandates for staff


By Allison Jones
Many Ontario municipalities are keeping COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their staff even as they lift the proof-of-vaccination requirement at facilities such as community centres.

The province’s vaccine certificate system covering restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas, event spaces ended Tuesday and several municipalities confirmed vaccination would no longer be required to enter their recreation facilities and arts centres.

But many municipalities that enacted policies requiring employees to be double vaccinated or lose their jobs are keeping those mandates in place.

Toronto cites employee safety

In Toronto, the city said that despite the other public health measures lifting, its policy that employees need to be vaccinated isn’t being removed.

“Ensuring all employees, as well as new hires, are vaccinated is an important component of what the city is doing to help protect the health and safety of all employees and the communities they work with,” the city said in a statement.

York Region’s director of corporate communications said maintaining the employee vaccine mandate is consistent with the municipality’s obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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“As we have demonstrated throughout the pandemic, York Region continues to take every possible step to protect our employees and residents, including through our mandatory vaccination policy and strongly recommending all staff obtain booster vaccines as they become available,” Patrick Casey said in a statement.

Requirements from province

Ontario required certain sectors, including health-care, schools and post-secondary institutions, to develop vaccination policies mandating that — at a minimum — unvaccinated employees had to submit to regular testing.

Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, had said he would like to dissolve those policies in line with the lifting of the vaccine certificate system, though he said last week that discussions were ongoing and it would take longer.

Many institutions, notably hospitals, developed policies that went beyond that standard, firing employees who refused to get vaccinated, and those facilities said their strict requirements would stay in place despite the province lifting restrictions.

The city of Windsor and the town of Clarington also said their employee vaccine mandates would stay in place. The city of London said it was reviewing its policy, but hadn’t yet made any changes.

Sudbury said it reviewed its mandatory vaccination policy in the context of Tuesday’s provincial changes and decided to keep it.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have made decisions that are rooted in the health and safety of our employees and the public we serve,” the city said in a statement.

Ottawa required unvaccinated employees to complete an education course about COVID-19 vaccines, and a spokeswoman said Tuesday that the city would follow public health advice.

“This policy is a temporary measure which aims to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19 and may be amended as new public health directives, provincial or federal legislation, regulations, or orders are formalized,” said Valerie Turner, innovative client services general manager, in a statement.