Ontario’s Ever-changing Pandemic Landscape
As employers are continuing to surf through the fourth wave, it is so important to keep updated on how COVID-19 legislation impacts your business and employees. Don’t get caught underwater – understanding these legislative changes is crucial. The following are some key areas we want to direct your attention, to ensure you are best equipped to support and continue to maintain your people practices and policies:
Vaccination Policy Popularity: What is Your Vaccination Strategy?
With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the Delta variant causing the fourth wave, many organizations are considering the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination policy. A mandatory vaccination policy does not mean you have to implement it as a condition of employment for all staff; you could consider alternative options and highlight what is important to your organization. It’s important you consider your strategy and the direction you want (i.e. mandate vs. recommend) and craft your policy from that standpoint. Consistency throughout the policy is key!
Once you have a policy in place, you can take the necessary steps to enforce this requirement for new employees.
What is the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) Saying About COVID-19?
Human Rights have been at the centre of many discussions related to the COVID-19 vaccine. On September 22, 2021, the OHRC released an official statement identifying its position on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates.
- Here are some of the highlights from the statement:
- Organizations are generally permitted to mandate the COVID-19 vaccination along with proof of vaccination in order to protect their staff, as long as they make accommodations for those who are unable to be vaccinated due to a protected ground under the OHRC (e.g. medical reasons).
- While the OHRC prohibits discrimination based on creed, an individual’s personal preference or singular belief does not constitute creed and therefore does not exempt one from the requirement to obtain the vaccination and/or show proof of same under the OHRC.
- Organizations who implement COVID-19 testing as a requirement to accommodate individuals with a proven medical need for accommodations should cover the costs of testing as part of their duty to accommodate.
- Any mandatory vaccination and COVID-19 testing policy should be used for the shortest amount of time possible, and therefore should be removed once we are no longer in a pandemic.
The full OHRC statement can be found HERE.
Is Your COVID-19 Screener Up to Date?
The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health has updated the questions asked in the COVID-19 daily screener. Please take note of the following changes and update these in your mandatory COVID-19 screener:
- The list of symptoms identified no longer includes: Sore throat, difficulty swallowing, runny nose/stuffy nose or nasal congestion, digestive issues like nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, pink eye, or falling down. Extreme tiredness and muscle aches have been replaced by fatigue, lethargy, malaise, and/or myalgia.
- Previously, individuals were required to identify if they had received a COVID alert exposure notification on their cell phone in the past 14 days. This has now been changed to a COVID alert exposure notification in the last 10 days.
- Previously, individuals were required to identify if they had been identified as a “close contact” of someone who currently has COVID-19 in the past 14 days. This has now been changed to in the last 10 days.
- The exposure-related questions (e.g. COVID cell phone alert, close contact, someone you live with waiting for a test result) now include: If you are fully immunized or have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and since been cleared, select “No.”
Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) is Extended: What Does This Mean for Employers?
IDEL has been extended to January 1, 2022. This means that employee layoffs and reduced hours are allowed until the end of the year without triggering termination obligations under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
Please see our previous article for further details on the IDEL Regulation: HERE As a reminder, employment contracts should identify the right to utilize layoffs if needed, to help employers avoid the risk of an allegation of constructive dismissal.
Want to Know More? Unsure Where to Start?
Not sure about your vaccination policy? Questions around IDEL and your employees? We want to know what questions you may have and how we can help! Contact DJB’s Human Resources Advisory team to get started at firstname.lastname@example.org.