Vaccination is one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal to protect broader public health in the face of COVID-19, and to prevent future outbreaks. Vaccination – used in combination with preventive public health measures – offers the best available protection for Canadians.
A new policy requiring vaccination was announced by the Government of Canada on October 6, 2021 and applies to approximately 268,000 federal public servants in the Core Public Administration (CPA) including members and reservists of the RCMP. The Core Public Administration comprises departments and organizations named in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act.
This requirement applies whether employees are teleworking, working remotely or working on-site. As early as November 15, public servants who refuse to disclose their status or who are unwilling to be fully vaccinated will be placed on administrative leave without pay.
Public servants were required to attest to their vaccination status by October 29, and have done so. As with any large employer, at any point in time there are employees on paid leave, recently hired, changing jobs or recently returned to work following leave. Those currently on leave will need to provide their attestations on timelines tied to their return. There are also a number of public servants who are submitting their attestations via paper form, and these files continue to be compiled. Aggregate vaccination data continues to be made available and updated on a weekly basis.
Employees have an obligation to provide a true attestation, which becomes a record with legal standing. Making a false statement would constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
All attestation information provided by employees is subject to verification and audit. Managers have the right to request proof of vaccination at any time to confirm an employee’s attestation, and it must be in a format that is recognized federally, provincially, or territorially (to be defined by the employer).
Requests for accommodation are assessed on a case-by-case basis, i.e. considering facts and circumstances that may be unique to the individual or the workplace, and always in accordance with the associated Government of Canada policy instruments.
Employers are obligated to ensure that they do not discriminate against individuals based on several prohibited grounds. This is not new: at the federal level, the Canadian Human Rights Act has been in place since 1977, and the public service has long had processes in place for considering requests for accommodation.
Managers are not making these decisions on their own. They are supported by experienced human resources professionals who receive policy guidance from the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, and are supported by legal and privacy advisors. Internal procedures for handling these requests must fully align to the Privacy Act and associated Government of Canada policy instruments. All data on employees’ requests for accommodation and their vaccination status are collected in accordance with the Privacy Act, the Policy on Privacy Protection and its related instruments.
Vaccination is now a condition of employment for the CPA. Like other conditions of employment, this requires the collection of information for compliance and to meet the health and safety objectives of the policy. The new application to collect vaccination attestations of public servants has purposefully been developed within an existing system in accordance with the government’s privacy and security requirements. Privacy considerations are central to how we designed the policy and how we continue to implement it.
This policy is about ensuring that as many public servants who are able to be vaccinated are vaccinated. All employees, regardless of where they work, are covered by the policy to protect their health and safety. The policy has been implemented in a way that gives employees steps and supports to help them all the way to getting fully vaccinated. This includes providing authoritative sources of information and tips, tools and supports to enable them to comply with the policy.
Taken together, more than a quarter of a million employees fall within the federal public service requirements announced on October 6. Having a fully vaccinated workforce means that not only are worksites safer, but the communities where public servants live and work are safer too. It means better protection for people accessing service points, and strengthens Canada’s ability to be able to sustain economic recovery everywhere public servants live and work.
Vaccination helps employees have confidence that every measure has been taken to ensure the safety of their worksite, wherever it is.