On October 6, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that all federal public servants in the core public administration, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will need to be fully vaccinated by October 29, 2021. Failure to do so will result in an employee being placed on unpaid administrative leave as early as November 15, 2021.
The accompanying Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the “Policy”), which takes effect on October 6, 2021, confirms that the requirement to be fully vaccinated applies to all employees regardless of whether they work onsite, remotely or telework. Employees who are unwilling to be fully vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status by October 29, 2021 will be required to attend an online training session on COVID-19 vaccination. If, after the two week period, the employee remains unwilling to be fully vaccinated or continues to refuse to disclose their vaccination status, the employee’s access to the workplace, off-site visits, business travel and conferences will be restricted and the employee will be placed on an unpaid administrative leave. Employees who are partially vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave if they do not have their second dose by 10 weeks after their first dose. Exemptions to the mandatory vaccination requirement are contemplated for employees who require accommodation based on a certified medical contraindication, religion or another prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Under the Policy, employees are expressly responsible for disclosing their vaccination and testing status accurately, informing their managers of any need for accommodation at the earliest opportunity (if applicable), cooperating and collaborating in good faith with their employer’s representative(s) in the accommodation process, attending any required training, and refraining from directing harassment or any other prohibited conduct toward an individual for any reason, including their vaccination status or accommodation measures.
During the October 6, 2021 press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland directed Crown corporations and agencies to implement policies that mirror the Policy for the rest of the public service.
Further to the Government of Canada’s announcement, Transport Canada has published a backgrounder confirming that as of October 30, 2021, the Government of Canada will require employers in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to establish a vaccination policy that mirror the Policy. The backgrounder provides that employers will need to implement a “rigorous policy” that addresses the employee declaration of vaccination status, a description of the consequences for non-compliance or falsification of information, and meets the standards of the Policy. After a short phase-in period for the implementation of such policies, employees will need to be fully vaccinated or they will not be able to work.
At present, there is no indication that the Canada Labour Code will be amended to mandate vaccinations for all federally regulated workers. Nevertheless, the measures introduced by the Government of Canada provide a strong precedent for mandatory vaccination policies in workplaces across Canada.