COVID-19 vaccinations required for all new county employees

Wellington municipalities eye evolving situation

WELLINGTON COUNTY – New hires will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 under a new policy established by Wellington County.

Communications manager Andrea Ravensdale provided a county statement explaining the policy in an Aug. 23 email.

“The County of Wellington considers vaccinations to be fundamental to the protection of our employees and the general public, and to be consistent with the best available public health advice for prevention of the spread of COVID and variants. As a result, we have decided to make COVID vaccinations a mandatory requirement and a condition of employment for new employees joining the County of Wellington in all departments. This will be a fundamental condition of new and ongoing employment for these individuals and will remain in place for the foreseeable future,” officials state.

All new employees are required to provide proof of up-to-date “fully vaccinated” status for COVID-19 prior to starting work as an employee with the County of Wellington. New hires will also be required to agree to have vaccinations administered “as recommended by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and/or reasonably required by the County of Wellington in accordance with prevailing public health advice.”

Any new employee not yet fully vaccinated, must provide proof of a vaccination appointment prior to starting work and proof of vaccination following the appointment.

If a new employee has a medical reason for not being vaccinated the county will provide them, upon request, with a letter to take to their physician. The statement notes each case will be considered on its own facts, in accordance with any applicable legal obligations under the Human Rights Code.

On Aug. 19 the City of Toronto announced a new mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy requiring all City of Toronto employees to receive both doses of the vaccine. Both the county and some local municipalities indicated they are keeping an eye on developments in other centres.

“The county is aware of the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 protocol and will be watching closely the evolving situation relating to required COVID-19 vaccinations for existing employees in Ontario,” county officials state.

Guelph/Eramosa CAO Ian Rogers told the Advertiser the township will be monitoring larger municipalities like the City of Toronto to see how various challenges from a legal and labour perspective play out before they decide which way they want to go.

“We’re not looking at any specific policy being implemented at this point,” he explained. “With what we’ve been told from all of the various legal experts, I think we’re going to let the larger (municipalities) do a few things first and we’ll keep an eye on things,” he stated.

“It’s certainly something I think we’re interested in, but given that our vaccination rate’s pretty high and, again, not knowing exactly what the province wants to do with their next step, we’ll keep an eye on things for probably about another month or two,” Rogers added.

Town of Erin senior communications officer Lavina Dixit told the Advertiser there is no current vaccination mandate for employees at this time.

“This however is an evolving matter that is being reviewed by the town’s leadership team in consultation with legal counsel,” Dixit stated in an email.

Mapleton CAO Manny Baron said the majority of the township’s staff are vaccinated “so it’s not as urgent for us.”

However, Baron noted, the township is working with HR consultant Steve Ilott to create a policy “that protects staff but is also fair to those who have valid reasons for not being vaccinated.”

Baron added,  “I do anticipate to have a carefully thought out policy to be presented to council” at one of the next two meetings.

Puslinch CAO Glenn Schwendinger said the township does not have a policy in place mandating vaccinations.

“We are in the process of reviewing different options,” he stated.

Minto CAO Derrick Thompson told the Advertiser prior to a council meeting on Aug. 24 that,“we are currently looking all our options.”

On Aug. 25, the town issued a press release stating indicating a vaccination requirement has been put in place for all staff.

“To ensure the health and safety of our staff as well as our community, all staff of the Town of Minto are expected to follow public health guidance and to get vaccinated, including getting any required second dose or booster shot. The COVID-19 vaccines being offered in Canada are all considered effective and safe and are the best means to enable us to live in a world free of unnecessary lockdowns,” the release states.

The release indicates Minto has implemented an an infectious disease and vaccine policy to reflect recommendations from Public Health Ontario and Health Canada. While the policy currently applies to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials note “there may be other public health risks in the future including another pandemic that require vaccinations and public safety measures.

“We want to take a leadership role, and make sure we are ready to meet those challenges,” the release states.

Centre Wellington communications manager Kendra Martin said “at this time no decision has been made,” in regard to mandatory vaccinations.

Wellington North CAO Mike Givens said the township has not implemented any policy related to mandatory vaccines.

“Wellington North has been very focused on educating our staff, council and residents on the benefits of vaccination. Widely sharing information provided by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, while also promoting and providing space for vaccination clinics to ensure access for all,” stated Givens in a Aug. 23 email.

“We anticipate that continuing but we will also consider other measures as we continue to support reopening Ontario,” he added.