ALL EMPLOYERS SHOULD READ – OHRC statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates…

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)  has released a statement on covid-19 vaccine mandates and vaccine certificates.

The statement is helpful for employers and provides guidance on potential for non-medical code accommodations.

The OHRC confirmed requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (“Code”):

“While receiving a COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary, the OHRC takes the position that mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated. This applies to all organizations.

With respect to non-medical accommodations, the OHRC confirmed a personal belief will not be covered by the Code:

The OHRC and relevant human rights laws recognize the importance of balancing people’s right to non-discrimination and civil liberties with public health and safety, including the need to address evidence-based risks associated with COVID-19.

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. At the same time, the OHRC’s position is that a person who chooses not to be vaccinated based on personal preference does not have the right to accommodation under the Code. The OHRC is not aware of any tribunal or court decision that found a singular belief against vaccinations or masks amounted to a creed within the meaning of the Code.

While the Code prohibits discrimination based on creed, personal preferences or singular beliefs do not amount to a creed for the purposes of the Code.”

Please see the attached link below for the full statement:

EMPLOYER WEBINAR – COVID-19: Returning to Work During the 4th Wave in Ontario

We have had several clients reach out wondering about the return to office, vaccination policies, exemptions, accommodations etc.

This seminar below may be of help, but you need to register this week by Monday, September 27, 2021

COVID-19: Returning to Work During the 4th Wave in Ontario

We are pleased to invite you to an upcoming webinar with Blaneys’ Employment Lawyers, Christopher McClelland and Jack Siegel on September 28, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT. 

As Ontario continues to reopen and with virtually all employees eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, many employers are moving forward with a gradual return to the workplace. What guidelines do employers need to follow as part of their reopening plans? 

Join us for a discussion about: 

  • Vaccination policies: What should be included? Can employers insist on employee vaccination?
  • The latest on public health measures and health & safety protocols
  • Ending, modifying or maintain alternate work arrangements (remote / hybrid)
  • Accommodating a returning workforce
  • Supporting employees in navigating and enforcing vaccination requirements

This session will end with a Q&A where we will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.

This webinar is complimentary and open to you and your colleagues. We hope you can join us!

To register please click here.

Ontario Releasing Guidance to Support Proof of Vaccination Policy

COVID Vaccination information you may find useful.

As the province continues to respond to the fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, the government is further protecting Ontarians through continued actions that encourage every eligible person to get vaccinated and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Today the government released the regulations and guidance for businesses and organizations to support them in implementing proof of vaccination requirements, which take effect on September 22, 2021. Requiring proof of vaccination will help increase vaccination rates, protect individuals in higher-risk indoor settings, and keep businesses open.

COVID-19 Vaccination Education Module

We’ve had several clients looking for educational resources around COVID-19 vaccination.  The following info is provided by the City Of Toronto and provides a certificate after completion.

COVID-19 Vaccination Education Module

Workplace policies should require workers who do not provide proof of vaccination to complete a vaccination education module with a signed declaration that they understand the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination. Employers can use Toronto Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccination: Understanding the Benefits and Risks module for this purpose.

Ontario’s Enhanced COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate

Things are changing in Ontario, and the governments announcement yesterday (September 1st) includes Mandatory vaccinations for many public spaces (seminars, concerts, restaurants etc.).

This document is NOT intended as a workplace resource, but does provide a window into what Ontario residents are going to have to do to attend events, travel etc. and will likely play a part Ontario Vaccine cover to increase vaccination rates.

Please click on the image or link below to see the whole document.

Free HR/legal Webinar on Vaccination, Testing, Return to Work (9/30/2021)

Employers are always looking for HR advice around tricky issues and Laura Williams and her firm are great at sharing through events like the one below.  We help sponsor some events (through the association I run – and share others, like this one, that may be of interest.  Please feel free to register for those that are of interest through the links below.  They are free of charge, and how often do you hear lawyers and free in the same sentence? 🙂

This fall, due to popular demand, the Williams HR Law team will be putting on a series of three free one-hour webinars, focusing on “hot spots” that we have identified as the most challenging and particularly pressing for employers as they navigate “The New World of Work”.

Register here to join us from 12-1 pm on September 30, October 28 and November 25!

The first webinar, on September 30, focuses on the “hottest topic” in HR law today: COVID-19 vaccination and testing policies. While the general strategies we will discuss during the webinar will help all employers, we recognize that many organizations require customized guidance and support with their efforts to develop return-to-work and vaccination strategies and policy development. We are currently supporting many of our clients with those efforts and would be pleased to support your organization as well. Please reach out to one of our lawyers for assistance.

Exclusive Client Benefit – FREE ACCESS to Canadian HR & COVID Toolkit

Dear Mainstay Clients,

We periodically remind our clients that Mainstay has entered into a program with ConnectsUs HR ™ to provide HR Resources.  We currently have about one third of our clients using the the site. If you have not yet checked it out, please do so HERE

Your free access to the proven HR & COVID-19 toolkit lets you:

  • Stay on top of the pandemic as it relates to your workforce with the COVID-19 Portal, notifications about important announcements, resources & templates.
  • Gain continued access to pre-written templates and legislated updates, including jurisdiction-specific Employee Handbook updates for 5 provinces.
  • Explore the latest and greatest content that’s continually added, including the most popular HR kits with detailed instructions: 

Effective August 27, 2021, all basic employee handbooks and comprehensive employee manuals now include a COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Policy template. 

The new policy is located in each of the 10 documents in the Staff Policies section under Conditions of your Engagement.  You can find the documents in the Employee Handbook Kit.

The best part?  There’s no cost to you – we’ve picked up the tab and you won’t even have to provide a credit card. Just drop us a note and we’ll give you a code to access the resources for free.

Canadian employers expecting to increase salaries by 3% in 2022: survey

From time to time I am asked by clients what clients are doing as far as salary increases. It doesn’t come up often, and I don’t track client numbers that way, but I thought this was an interesting survey to share.  Of note, and one of the reasons for the larger increases was this quote… “51 per cent of companies surveyed globally are reporting better than expected performance in 2021.”

Canadian employers said they expect salaries to increase from just over two per cent in 2021 to about three per cent in 2022, according to a new survey from Willis Towers Watson….


Extension of Temporary Relief from ESA Termination and Severance Provisions

On June 4, 2021, the Ontario government extended the temporary relief measures from the termination and severance provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) until September 25, 2021

The majority of our clients have kept their employees working safely during COVID, but there may be people that are still off on leave and many of those will be returning to workplaces at the end of September when IDEL appears to be ending. 

Canada life did a communication piece to explain what this means to employers (see below). We’ve included it here in the event you find yourself in this position.

IDEL extensions continue up to September 25th, 2021

Earlier this month the Ontario government announced the “deemed” Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) COVID19 period would be extended to Sept. 25, 2021.

All employees currently on layoff in Ontario continue to be protected under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) deemed Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL). Deemed IDEL allows all in-force coverage, including disability coverage, to remain in force on a premium paying basis, until Sept. 25, 2021. Any coverage that had terminated will remain so until the end of the leave or return to work date, whichever is earlier.

If the Ontario government ends deemed IDEL on Sept. 25, then starting Sept. 26, 2021 the following will apply:

  • The Employment Standards Act (ESA) regular rules around constructive dismissal resume and an employee may be constructively dismissed, even for COVID-19 related reasons. In this case, the group coverage for the employee would be terminated.
  • The ESA regular rules around temporary layoffs resume and the temporary lay-off clock resets. Employees who can’t return to work will be considered on a temporary layoff, with Sept. 26, 2021 being the first day of the temporary layoff. In this case, the employee’s group coverage will be extended (31 days for disability and six months for all other coverage) based on the termination provision of the group contract. If disability coverage was discontinued during the deemed IDEL, it will remain in terminated status.
  • Employees can apply for regular IDEL (not deemed IDEL) if they meet the criteria. An employee’s benefits coverage, minus disability, would continue as this is considered an ESA leave.


Enforceability Of Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies In The Workplace

As many employers begin the task of bringing staff back to the office/shop/plant, we are hearing more questions around employee and employers duties and rights. The courts have not provided clear direction (yet), but both sides of the discussion are mentioned here. Take a read.

To date, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have not introduced any legislation which would require all eligible individuals to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  However, would a mandatory vaccination policy introduced by an employer be legally enforceable?  If employees refuse to get vaccinated, would an employer be justified to prohibit the employee from attending at the workplace, to place them on an unpaid leave of absence, or to terminate their employment or otherwise discipline the employee?  In addressing this issue, there are two competing interests…