COVID-19 Vaccination and Workplaces

Organizations play a critical role in vaccination - helping to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and increasing uptake among employees.

After vaccination, about 10% of individuals experience common side effects, which may include: pain, redness, swelling at the site where the needle was given, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and low fever. Serious side effects are rare.

Where possible, consider scheduling shifts 48 hours after vaccination. Bill 284, COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021 allows employees to claim job-protected paid leave for various COVID-19 reasons including COVID-19 vaccination or for side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination. If time off after vaccination is not planned, employees who are not feeling well enough to return to work following vaccination, should not be required to do so.

There are mild non-respiratory symptoms (not related to breathing, such as headache, muscle ache, fatigue, joint pain) that can occur with COVID-19 that may also occur in the 48 hours after vaccination as a result of the vaccine. 

In the 48 hours after vaccination, if an employee develops the following symptoms (and no others), and where the symptoms are mild (i.e. the employee feels well enough to work) and symptoms only began after vaccination, the employee can continue to work:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Muscle ache
  • Joint pain

The above guidance only applies to workers who:

  • Are required to be at work in-person AND
  • Have received a COVID-19 vaccine within the 48 hours before coming to work (including day of vaccination, which is considered day 1) AND
  • Do not have a known exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days.

Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site are more common symptoms of vaccination and are not symptoms that you would have with COVID-19.

Active screening of employees, including after vaccination is required. If COVID-19 is suspected employees should be excluded from work and seek further medical evaluation.

Reference: Guidance for Employers Managing Workers with Symptoms within 48 hours of COVID-19 Immunization.

Employers can encourage employees to get vaccinated by:

Promoting vaccination not only helps to protect your employees, but can also protect your workplace by:

  • Reducing the number of employee absences due to COVID-19, which can also impact workforce productivity or ability to operate
  • Keeping your workforce healthier by reducing rates and spread of COVID-19

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. The Ontario Human Rights Code and other similar laws try to balance people's right to non-discrimination and civil liberties with public health and safety. Organizations and staff are encouraged to be flexible in exploring if accommodation is necessary, including alternate ways an individual may continue to safely work or receive a service without being vaccinated.

It is important to note that mandatory vaccination already occurs in certain settings (e.g. school settings). As more information becomes available about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations in reducing COVID-19 spread, it is possible that specific settings will be able to mandate COVID-19 vaccination.

The Hamilton Concierge can provide assistance on how to support staff vaccinations and workplace COVID-19 vaccination policies. You can reach the Hamilton Concierge at (905) 521-3989.

Vaccination is an additional public health measure that protects against COVID-19. Other public health measures that contribute towards a safer workplace should continue to be practised, such as staying home when not feeling well, active screening prior to work, physical distancing, wearing a mask indoors, wearing a mask and eye protection when unable to maintain at least 2 metres distance, regular handwashing, environmental cleaning and disinfection and optimizing ventilation.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines employees and employers’ rights and obligations. Employees may refuse to work If they believe it is unsafe for them or another employee. Visit the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to learn more.

Although the choice to receive vaccination is voluntary, employers may be able to require proof of vaccination to ensure fitness to safely perform work or protect other people. Employees who choose not to be vaccinated may be reassigned/accommodated to other areas of work if deemed necessary to do so.

Organizations should be clear why proof of vaccination is needed and ensure that informed consent is received to obtain this information. More information about the Human Rights Code and COVID-19.

Certain global industries (e.g. airlines) have already announced that they intend to require vaccination proof, subject to medical exemptions. The Canadian government has stated it is looking at requirements around vaccination on international travel in the future.

As more information becomes available about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in reducing COVID-19 spread (and not just protecting the individual against infection), it is possible that additional settings will be able to mandate COVID-19 vaccination.

If your organization is looking to issue proof of vaccination requirements, we recommend that you seek legal advice prior to doing so.

Under the Reopening Ontario Act, everyone must keep at least 2 metres apart from others who they do not live with, both indoors and outdoors. This applies both within the workplace and lunchroom and outside of the workplace. The regulations outlined in the Reopening Ontario Act continue to apply to people who have been vaccinated.  

All public health measures should continue to be followed after being partially or fully vaccinated. This means staying home when not feeling well, active screening prior to work, keeping 2 metres from others who you do not live with, wearing a mask, wearing a mask and eye protection when unable to maintain at least 2 metres distance, regular handwashing, environmental cleaning and disinfection and optimizing ventilation.

Additional resources

Vaccine resources in additional languages
Vaccine FAQs
Social media and posters for your workplace
COVID-19 vaccine safety