Framework for implementation of the Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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Context

The Treasury Board Policy on COVID‑19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Policy on Vaccination) became effective on October 06, 2021.

This framework, intended to complement the Policy on Vaccination, is an evergreen document, and will evolve as science and public health guidance evolve.

  • As of September 1, 2021, the fourth wave of COVID‑19 has started in Canada and is driven by the Delta variant. Most cases, hospitalizations, and fatal outcomes are occurring among unvaccinated people. The Delta variant is much more contagious than other SARS-CoV2 viruses that have circulated in Canada; it spreads faster and increases risk of hospitalizations.
  • SARS-CoV2 is known to be more transmissible in indoor crowded spaces, including workplaces.
  • The federal public service continues to be guided by the advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada for public health advice and Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program for occupational health advice.
  • One of the primary objectives of the Policy on Vaccination and this framework is to take every precaution reasonable, in the circumstances, for the protection of the health and safety of employees. Vaccination is a key element in the protection of employees against COVID‑19.
  • While vaccination remains an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID‑19, it is not a substitute for following other recommended and widely known preventive practices related to COVID‑19, such as wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, and frequent handwashing as outlined in the Public Service Occupational Health Program guidance. Vaccination will add a layer of protection that will work with other preventive practices to combat the pandemic.
  • All employees, including those on telework and remote work, are expected to remain available to attend on-site, at least occasionally. For example, they may have to attend scheduled meetings or events, access sensitive information, or address urgent operational requirements. All employees need to be vaccinated to protect themselves, colleagues, and others from COVID‑19.
  • The principles of this framework will apply to Interchange Canada participants and volunteers.
  • In addition, organizations continue to update their departmental Hazard Prevention Program including adopting any applicable infection prevention and control measures as per Public Service Occupational Health Program guidance, such as preventive practices, administrative measures such as remote working, staggered work shifts, and engineering controls until advised otherwise.

Timeline for implementation and compliance

October 6, 2021 – Effective Date of the Policy on Vaccination

  • The Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System (GC-VATS) is launched to departments in waves, ending October 15. The GC-VATS allows employees to enter their attestation of vaccination status, and any requests for accommodation.

October 6, 2021 to October 29 – Attestation Period

  • Employees enter their vaccination status into the GC-VATS, no later than October 29 (Attestation Deadline).
  • Employees unable to be vaccinated begin making accommodation requests. Employees unable to be vaccinated are encouraged to request accommodation no later than October 29, 2021. Managers gather relevant information and render a decision as soon as possible.
  • All employees are permitted access to their workplace as per existing departmental procedures, and without testing, but with appropriate preventative measures in place.
  • Special situations – Other Attestation deadlines (as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination):
    • 2 weeks after return from leave if the return from leave is after October 15, 2021; or
    • 2 weeks after the date on which an employee has been informed of their manager’s decision that the duty to accommodate does not apply; or
    • For employees who, for reasons related to their current position, are unable to attest to their vaccination status, or do not have access to vaccines for the period extending from October 15th to October 29th, the attestation deadline is 2 weeks from the date they have access to each, as determined by their manager, and notwithstanding their leave status.

October 29, 2021 until November 14, 2021

  • Unvaccinated employees and employees who have not attested to their vaccination status are required to attend a training session.
  • Managers remind employees, in writing, of the consequences of not attesting to their vaccination status, requesting accommodation, or of being unvaccinated.

November 15, 2021 – Full Implementation Date of the Policy on Vaccination, or 2 weeks following the “Attestation Deadline” as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination

  • Employees who have not attested to having received their first vaccination dose or submitted a request for accommodation are considered unwilling.
  • Beginning of accommodation measures for employees unable to be vaccinated, including mandatory testing of employees who must report to work on-site. Please refer to the Framework on Mandatory COVID‑19 Testing for implementation of the Policy on COVID‑19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • Employees will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:
    • They are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
    • They are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.
  • Employees who have attested to having received a first dose as of the attestation deadline will have a period of up to 10 weeks after the first dose to receive their second dose. If they do not receive their second dose by this time, they will be placed on leave without pay.

Key considerations

In this section

Vaccination attestation requirement

  • All employees will be required to disclose their vaccination status to their employer by providing an attestation of their status of vaccination and, if required by the employer, a proof of immunization in a format that is recognized federally, provincially, or territorially (to be defined by the employer).
  • All new hires on or after the effective date of the Policy on Vaccination are required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment and attest that they are fully vaccinated prior to their starting date unless accommodated due to certified medical contraindications, religion, or other prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Leave

  • In accordance with the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements, employees who require time away from work to get vaccinated, because they cannot schedule the appointment outside of work hours, may request, for each COVID‑19 vaccine appointment, up to 3.75 hours for employees who works 7.5 hours per day, as paid time off for “medical and dental appointment” (Code 698).
  • When an employee experiences a side effect that prevents them from working following vaccination, the sick leave provisions of their collective agreement, or relevant terms and conditions of employment, are to be used to cover absences.
  • When an employee does not have sick leave credits available, there are provisions for an advance of sick leave credits at the employer’s discretion; such needs and requests are discussed on a case-by-case basis between the employee and their manager; the provisions of the collective agreements apply.
  • “Other Leave With Pay (Code 699)”, will not be available to employees unwilling to be vaccinated. Please consult the guidance on the use of Other Leave with Pay (699).

Required training session

  • Employees who are unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or who are unwilling to be fully vaccinated by the attestation deadline will be required to attend a virtual training session on COVID‑19 vaccines.
  • The training session on COVID‑19 vaccination, developed by Public Service Occupational Health Program and available on GCcampus, serves to address vaccine hesitancy, and help build vaccine confidence, with the goal to increase vaccine uptake in the core public administration.

Working abroad

  • Global Affairs Canada has certain responsibilities for employees posted abroad and their dependants.
  • Employees working abroad should receive a Health Canada approved vaccine. Employees working abroad should consult their human resources division for information on vaccination logistics pertinent to their situation.

Privacy

In this section

When collecting personal information for the delivery of this program, institutions are reminded to ensure they respect the following legal and policy requirements:

Direct collection

Section 5 of the Privacy Act requires that wherever possible, personal information should be collected directly from the individual. As such, vaccination status of public servants should be collected from the employees themselves and not via provincial or territorial authorities.

Safeguards for uses and disclosures

As per Section 6.2.19 and 6.2.20 of the Directive on Privacy Practices, institutions must identify which positions or functions in the program or activity have a valid reason to access and handle personal information and limit access to and use of, personal information by administrative, technical, and physical means. Measures should be taken for minimal intrusiveness, such as:

  • Ensuring that employees only provide their vaccination status once, to individuals that have a need to know, such as their direct supervisor or a human resources representative.
  • Ensuring the personal information collected is not used or disclosed for any consistent uses that are not included in the privacy notice statement on the attestation form.
  • Having institutions implement processes such as updating access badges to identify employees who are permitted to access the workplace based on the vaccination criteria.

Retention schedules

As per section 4 of the Privacy Regulations, with some exceptions, personal information shall be retained for a period of at least 2 years following the last time it was used for an administrative purpose, such as determining access to the workplace.

Privacy notice statement

As per section 6.2.9 of the Directive on Privacy Practices, a privacy notice is required. It should include the purpose and legal authority of the collection; any uses or disclosures associated; the consequences for refusal; the right to access and correct any personal information collected; and the right to complain to the Privacy Commissioner regarding the handling of the information.

Duty to accommodate (for an employee unable to be vaccinated)

Nothing in this framework supersedes the Directive on the Duty to Accommodate. The employer has a duty to accommodate individuals’ needs when those needs relate to one or more of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, up to the point of undue hardship. In the case of vaccines, this could include:

Deputy heads are responsible for:

  • Ensuring employees are informed of:
    • their right to accommodation under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
    • any required procedures to be followed when seeking accommodation; and,
    • the organization’s approach to accommodation and privacy obligations to reassure the employees that the workplace will be safe.
  • Ensuring managers are informed about their responsibilities and obligations regarding:
    • addressing accommodation needs on a case-by-case basis for the employees who are unable to be fully vaccinated based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
    • responding to accommodation requests in the GC-VATS. For employees requesting accommodation with supporting documentation, the GC-VATS will record their manager’s receipt of required documentation and the manager’s decision with respect to accepting the justification, or not; and
    • the relevant confidentiality and privacy considerations.
  • Accommodating a person’s needs in a timely manner, up to the point of undue hardship, in accordance with Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat guidance.

Deciding if the duty to accommodate applies

  • Managers are responsible for:
    • Receiving employees’ request and following the accommodation process and rendering a decision as soon as possible or by the full implementation date. They can seek advice from Human Resources and Labour Relations advisors and refer to organizational guidance and procedures.

Step 1: Requesting accommodation when unable to be fully vaccinated

  • Employees should make the request for accommodation and provide supporting documentation to their managers at the earliest opportunity or by the attestation deadline. Prompt requests will enable the managers to make decisions more effectively, so that if it is determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, employees will be able to comply with the Policy on Vaccination.
  • Managers provide temporary accommodation for employees while gathering relevant information.

Step 2: Gathering relevant information

  • Employees are responsible for:
    • Informing their manager of their need for accommodation based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
    • Providing their manager with the information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation, including information on relevant limitations and restrictions.
    • Cooperating and collaborating in good faith with their organization’s representative(s) to find one or more means to accommodate such needs.
    • Notifying their manager if their accommodation needs change.
    • Respecting the accommodation requirements and privacy of others.
  • Supporting documentation:
    • Certified medical contraindications:
      • For the purpose of the Policy on Vaccination, managers must request documentation, from the employee’s treating medical physician or nurse practitioner, using the form available in GC-VATS, setting out the grounds for not receiving or for delaying the COVID‑19 vaccine.
      • The note must specify whether the reason is permanent or time limited. If time limited, the note should indicate how long the limitation is expected to last.
      • There are few acceptable medical reasons for delaying or not receiving the COVID‑19 vaccination (e.g., an allergist/immunologist-confirmed severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID‑19 vaccine or to any of its components that cannot be mitigated, or a diagnosed episode of myocarditis/pericarditis after receipt of an mRNA vaccine).
    • Religion:
      • Managers should request a sworn attestation (signed before a commissioner for taking affidavits) containing detailed information about the sincerely held religious belief that prohibits full vaccination.
    • Other prohibited grounds:
      • Managers should request an attestation of the details regarding one or more of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act that renders the employee unable to be fully vaccinated.
  • Managers may request additional information and supporting documentation, as may be appropriate, to assess the accommodation request.
  • Other alternative documentation could be accepted, in consultation with departmental human resources specialists.

Step 3: Making an informed decision

  • Managers should decide on a response to the accommodation request at the earliest opportunity or no later than the full implementation date.
  • Managers must consult internal subject matter experts or guidance regarding the accommodation measure(s), including any related implications (e.g., security, technology, financial), if required. They will in turn consult as appropriate with OCHRO experts.
  • Managers should work with employee representatives when requested by the employees and/or if others are affected by the accommodation decision.
  • Managers are required to consider requests for accommodations no matter the date of receipt of such a request.

Implementing accommodation when warranted

When the manager decides that the duty to accommodate applies, accommodation must be provided up to the point of undue hardship. Given the public health considerations, the choice of accommodation should also ensure the safety and security of the workplace, along with privacy obligations.

The following are recommended accommodation measures:

  1. Where operationally feasible, employees will perform regular duties or responsibilities through telework supported by a telework agreement as per the Directive on Telework.
  2. Employees will be assigned alternate duties or responsibilities that can be completed through telework supported by a telework agreement as per the Directive on Telework.
  3. Employees will complete regular mandatory testing as per the Framework on Mandatory COVID‑19 Testing for Implementation of the Policy on COVID‑19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police based on guidance from the Health Canada Testing Secretariat, and:
    • Follow all preventive practices implemented in the workplace and other preventative practices as recommended by Public Service Occupational Health Program and other organizational requirements.
    • Not perform duty travel, unless essential.
  4. Other measures detailed in communication with the employees and documented in the accommodation decision.

Step 4: Implementation

Managers must promptly advise employees of the decision, the rationale for the decision, the accommodation to be provided, if applicable, and the steps that must be taken to implement it:

  • Managers should consult with employees regarding the best approach to explaining the accommodation measures, to anyone affected by the measures, if necessary (while respecting privacy considerations).
  • If a decision has been taken that the duty to accommodate does not apply, then the Policy on Vaccination requirements apply. The date of the decision will be the attestation deadline as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination for the purposes of determining the timing of consequences.
  • Employees wanting to contest the decision would do so using the normal procedures for complaint.

Step 5: Recordkeeping

  • Managers will document the process, supporting materials provided, the decision (including the accommodation measure, if applicable), and any follow-up actions in accordance with departmental standards and the Privacy Act.
  • Communication with others should be limited to a need-to-know basis for implementing the accommodation.

Partially vaccinated employees

The Policy on Vaccination and framework will provide flexibility to employees demonstrating willingness to be vaccinated, and who have taken concrete steps to do so.

  • Employees who have been identified as unwilling, and have been placed on Leave Without Pay, and subsequently become partially vaccinated, will have their pay reinstated as of the date of their revised attestation.
  • Partially vaccinated employees must adhere to the timelines for subsequent doses within 10 weeks, as per the Policy on Vaccination. Partially vaccinated employees that do not receive their second dose within those timeframes are considered unwilling, and consequences begin at 10 weeks from the date of their first dose.
  • For the period during which employees are partially vaccinated, the following temporary measures should be considered by management (in order of priority), to ensure the continued safety of the workplace:
    1. Where operationally feasible, employees will perform regular duties or responsibilities through telework supported by a telework agreement as per the Directive on Telework.
    2. Employees will be assigned alternate duties or responsibilities that can be completed through telework supported by a telework agreement as per the Directive on Telework.
    3. Employees will complete regular mandatory testing as per the Framework on Mandatory COVID‑19 Testing for Implementation of the Policy on COVID‑19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police based on guidance from the Health Canada Testing Secretariat, and:
      • Follow all preventive practices implemented in the workplace and other preventative practices as recommended by Public Service Occupational Health Program and other organizational requirements.
      • Not perform duty travel, unless essential.
    4. Other measures detailed in communication with the employees and documented by the manager.

Employee unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or who chooses not to be fully vaccinated

In this section

Timeline for compliance

Effective date of the Policy on Vaccination (October 6, 2021):

Step 1: Advise employees of consequences of not meeting the vaccination requirement

  • Employees will be advised that:
    • They have until November 15, 2021 (or 2 weeks following the attestation deadline as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination), to comply with the mandatory vaccination requirement or administrative measures will be taken.
    • If by November 15 (or 2 weeks following the attestation deadline as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination) employees have not had their first vaccine dose, nor submitted their request for accommodation, those employees are considered unwilling, and consequences begin.
    • If employees have had their first dose by November 15 (or 2 weeks following the attestation deadline as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination) but have NOT received their second dose within the 10 following weeks, employees are considered unwilling, and consequences begin 10 weeks from the date of the first dose.

Attestation Deadline (October 29, 2021, or 2 Weeks After the Attestation Deadline as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination):

Step 2: Attestation period

  • Employees who are unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or who choose not to be fully vaccinated will be required to attend a virtual training session on COVID‑19 vaccination within 2 weeks after the attestation deadline.
  • Ongoing communications with employees, including reminder messages sent to employees asking them to comply with the Policy on Vaccination and warning them of the consequences if non-compliant.

Full Implementation Date of the Policy on Vaccination (November 15, 2021) or 2 weeks following the “Attestation Deadline” as defined in Appendix A of the Policy on Vaccination:

Step 3: Mandatory Testing for those unable to be vaccinated and who must report to work on-site

  • Managers decide on requests for accommodation as soon as possible or by the full implementation date.

Step 4: Consequences begin

Employees are placed on leave without pay and the employer stops assigning employees hours of work.

  • The employer:
    • Advises employees not to report to work or to not work remotely.
    • Provides employees who have 1 dose as of the attestation deadline a period of up to 10 weeks after the first dose to receive their second dose.
      • Allows employees to either return to the workplace with mandatory testing, work remotely, or telework once a first dose is received (if they do not receive their second dose within 10 weeks, they will be placed on leave without pay (leave code “LWOP-Other”).
  • Action in pay system (as required): If employees are on leave without pay for a period of 5 days or longer, they will be temporarily struck off strength in the pay system and they will be issued a record of employment.

References

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