At the Committee of the Whole meeting on October 4, a motion was passed establishing a policy that “Town employees, volunteers, consultants and Members of Council (must) be fully Vaccinated in the workplace” by November 29, 2021. A previous post mentioned this briefly but the policy is quite detailed and the details are important. The first step is that individuals must disclose their vaccination status by October 22 using the Ontario Government receipt. If they are not fully vaccinated nor have a valid exemption they will be subject to regular testing. If testing gives a result showing infection, they “shall not be permitted to work or enter the workplace and will be required to utilize their banked time to make their pay whole”. Testing will be done at least twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Fully vaccinated individuals will not be subject to testing.
The Policy provides strong incentives to get vaccinated but does allow medical and religious exemptions (details below). For individuals with an exemption, testing will be done and paid for by the Town and may be done during paid working hours although the process seems to be onerous: They must “Provide verification of the negative test result to their Manager (via email) prior to attending the workplace and within two (2) hours of their scheduled shift”. Testing would be twice a week or more at the discretion of the employer.
Who is covered by Policy
The Policy covers all members of Council and all employees of the Town, including full-time, part-time, contract employees, volunteer Firefighters and students.
There are two basic reasons for an exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated:
- Medical – written medical documentation supplied by a physician (MD) or by a registered nurse extended class (RNEC) or nurse practitioner (NP) that sets out a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated and the effective time period for the medical reason. I have heard that such exemptions are not easy to get – it must be a serious and legitimate reason. E.g. not just your dislike of vaccines.
- Religion or “Creed”. No exemption is allowed based on personal preference or belief – it must be an established religion (or creed) – and I don’t know of any religions in Canada with such beliefs. I’d guess you’d need to prove you have belonged for a while and a letter from an Anti-vax pastor would not be enough. The Ontario Human Rights commission has stated that there are no grounds based on Human Rights – see link below.
Unvaccinated but not Exempt
If an individual covered by the Policy either does not provide proof of vaccination or does not disclose their status and is not exempt they:
- Must attend mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination that is endorsed by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
- Submit to regular antigen testing (Rapid Test) for COVID-19 and demonstrate a negative result (as described above for exempt individuals)
- Will not be compensated for the cost of testing,
- Will not be provided test kits for conducting the Rapid Test or be compensated the cost of conducting the testing;
- Will be required to conduct the testing outside of work time.
- Should an individual refuse to submit to Rapid Testing as outlined above, they will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.
Individuals who decline the COVID-19 vaccine may be reassigned to work where the individual has less exposure to potential risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. If reassignment is deemed necessary, but no alternative work is available, the individual will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.
Individuals on an unpaid leave of absence may use personal banked time to keep their pay whole.
Employers like the Town are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of all individuals’ health and safety, including protection from the spread of an infectious disease. This includes encouragement to have a vaccination policy.
Similarly, individuals are obligated under the Town’s Workplace Health and Safety Commitment to protect their own health and safety by working in compliance with prevailing regulations and standards and with safe work practices and procedures established by the Town and as outlined in the OHSA.
Looks like any Anti-Vaxers working for the Town will have to get vaccinated anyway or be tested at least twice a week (and prove that) or be put on an unpaid leave of absence.
As always – CoW motions need to be ratified at a Regular Council Meeting – in this case on October 12.
- Cobourg’s Vaccination Policy
- Ontario Ministry of Health Guidelines to medical exemptions
- Ontario Human Rights Q & A on Covid-19 vaccines
The above decision was confirmed at the October 12 Regular Council meeting.