COVID-19 – Vaccine Information for Employers

Last revised/reviewed October 13, 2021

On September 9, 2021, Peterborough Public Health Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, issued a formal letter of recommendation.  Dr. Salvaterra is strongly recommending that all workplaces in the City and County of Peterborough develop (or enhance) their workplace policies to include a requirement that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine, unless otherwise medically exempt. The letter was revised on October 13, after Dr. Salvaterra’s retirement, to reflect Dr. Gemmil’s current recommendation.

For assistance in developing or enhancing your workplace vaccination policy, please review the vaccine policy toolkit below:

Establishing a vaccine policy for your workplace

Strategies to increase vaccine uptake

Host an onsite vaccine clinic

Educational resources for workplaces

Workplace guidance after vaccination

Resources:

Establishing a vaccine policy for your workplace

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 that 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?
  • Has your workplace been set up to accommodate meal and break periods at work during COVID-19?

The workplace vaccination 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.
  1. List action steps workers must take.

When necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, workplace policies should require workers to provide proof of vaccination, with vaccines approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization. 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.
  1. Set deadlines for when the actions must be taken.

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

  1. 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
    • For more information, please contact PPH at 705-743-1000, ext. 468
  1. 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 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.
  1. Non-Compliance
  • Outline the potential consequences for workers who do not fulfill the requirements of the policy.
  1. 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.

Information about workers’ vaccination information must be protected in accordance with applicable privacy legislation. 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.

When collecting information about a worker’s vaccination status:

  • Identify ways to safeguard workers’ personal health information.
  • Limit information collected to the worker’s name and date of vaccination for each dose.
  • Keep worker vaccination information separate from their personnel file.
  • Ensure personal health/vaccination information is kept in a secure manner and only used when required.
  1. 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.

Resources:

Strategies to increase vaccine uptake

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, or help your employees book a vaccine appointment online.
  • Offer flexible work hours, or paid time off for employees to go get vaccinated.
  • Offer incentives for policy compliance such as gift cards, prizes or company swag.

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:

Host an onsite vaccine clinic

Employers interested in hosting an on-site vaccination clinic are invited to call Peterborough Public Health at (705) 743-1000, and ask to speak with ext. 468 to inquire about hosting a mobile clinic at your workplace.

Educational resources for workplaces

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.

Workplace guidance after vaccination

Vaccination and COVID-19 prevention measures in workplaces

Workplace vaccination policies are important tools to prevent workers from being exposed to COVID-19. COVID-19 prevention and control measures are still required to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if it enters the workplace. After vaccination, continue to follow public health measures outlined in the Ministry of Health’s “What to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine” 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 someone 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:

Peterborough Public Health would like to thank and acknowledge Toronto Public Health for the content used to develop this webpage.