Wellington County, Minto employees bear consequences of vaccination policies

Sixteen county workers on unpaid leave, two terminated in Minto

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The employment-related consequences of refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are starting to be felt by Wellington County and the Town of Minto workers.

Minto and the county were among three local municipalities to implement vaccination requirements for employees.

Guelph/Eramosa reported on Oct. 20 that 100 per cent of its employees are fully vaccinated.

A Nov. 4 statement from the county issued in response to a request from the Wellington Advertiser indicates 16 employees are currently on unpaid leave for failing to be fully vaccinated or submit to regular testing as of an Oct. 23 deadline.

The statement points out “the overwhelming majority of employees did comply” with a requirement to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status by Sept. 22.

“A small group of employees were granted short extensions for various reasons and some received coaching from the human resources department on why disclosing this information was necessary,” county officials state.

All active county employees have now disclosed their COVID-19 vaccination status. Employees who are currently on a legislated leave of absence are not required to disclose and comply with the COVID-19 vaccination policy until they return to work, the statement notes.

After initially making vaccination a requirement of employment just for new hires on Oct. 4, the county amended its policy and required all employees to be vaccinated unless they provided a “verified and approved” medical exemption.

Employees had until Oct. 15 to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (or provide a medical exemption) or be placed on unpaid leave. Effective Nov. 30, any employee not fully vaccinated or providing a verified and approved medical exemption, will be placed on unpaid leave under the policy.

Rapid antigen testing for employees with verified and approved medical exemptions, or in the process of completing their full COVID-19 vaccination, began on Oct. 23.  These employees are tested up to three times per week (depending on their work schedule – full time/part time).

Currently, 20 employees are being tested and 16 employees are currently on unpaid leave for not complying with the policy. No employees have been terminated, the county states.

The county currently has 943 employees and 98 per cent of active employees are fully vaccinated while workers on any type of leave of absence will be required to comply with the policy once they return to work.

All new hires and re-hires must also provide proof of full vaccination prior to starting their employment with the county.

“The county does consider a 98% employee COVID-19 vaccination rate to be successful,” according to the Nov. 4 statement.

“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-19 and variants.”

The statement adds, “Public health data also shows us that the Delta variant poses a significant risk to those who are unvaccinated, including children under the age of 12. The county decided that we must do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the public we proudly serve.

“As a result, the county decided to make COVID-19 vaccinations a mandatory requirement and a condition of employment for all employees. The original policy clearly stated that it could be amended at any time.”

Town of Minto

Although the Town of Minto announced on Aug. 25 that all employees would be required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment, the municipality did not set a deadline for compliance, opting to work with employees on a case-by-case basis.

CAO Derrick Thomson indicated in a Nov. 3 email that all but two of Minto’s 48 employees disclosed their COVID-19 vaccination status and two employees have been terminated as a result of the policy.

Thompson notes no employees requested medical exemptions and no employees were granted exemptions based on religious grounds.

As of Nov. 3, 95.5% of Minto employees are fully vaccinated and 100% of employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.