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.
Should workplaces schedule time off for employees after vaccination?
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.
An employee received their vaccine and is experiencing side effects. Are they permitted to attend work (i.e. they would fail the workplace screening tool)
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:
- 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.
How can employers encourage their employees to get vaccinated?
Employers can encourage employees to get vaccinated by:
- Sharing clear and concise information to educate employees and answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
- Focusing on benefits of COVID-19 vaccines (health and safety of themselves, loved ones and co-workers).
- Sharing the message from multiple levels within the organization.
- Sharing information on how to book a vaccine appointment.
- Offering flexible scheduling to make it easier for employees to get vaccinated. Consider scheduling shifts 48 hours from the time of vaccination, where possible. If vaccination is scheduled during work hours, consider paying workers for the time it takes to get vaccinated. Workers who don’t have to decide between getting paid and getting vaccinated will be more likely to get the vaccine.
Why should employers promote vaccination?
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
If employees do not want to get vaccinated, can employers require that they get a vaccine?
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.
Are employers protecting employees health and safety if some employees need to work near an employee who is not vaccinated?
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.
Can employers require employees to provide proof of vaccination?
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.
Can organizations require proof of vaccination for guests, passengers, or customers (e.g. hospitality sector, live entertainment, mass transportation, etc.)?
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.
My employee who has already been vaccinated was just informed that they are a close contact of a case. Do they still need to self-isolate?
Guidance for employees who are identified as close contacts and have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has recently been updated. For guidance, contact Hamilton Public Health at: 905-974 9848 or [email protected].
Can employees who have been vaccinated congregate with one another outside of the workplace or in the lunchroom or at break?
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.
Are masks and eye protection still required for employees and customers after vaccination?
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.
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