The federal government released its mandatory vaccination policy for federal public service workers on October 6, mandating vaccinations for all employees in federally regulated workplaces, including more than 160,000 PSAC members.
We have compiled frequently asked questions to provide PSAC members with as much information as possible on vaccinations in the workplace. This page will be regularly updated to reflect the changing circumstances.
- When will I need to be vaccinated by?
All public service workers in the core public administration must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday, October 29, 2021.
The Core Public Administration (CPA) includes employees that work in the core occupational groups of all departments listed in Schedule I and Schedule IV of the Financial Administration Act (FAA), as well as the ministerial staff, deputy ministers, governor and order-in-council appointees, judges and students affiliated with these departments.
- Can my employer ask me for my vaccination status?
Yes, the federal government’s vaccination policy states that employees are responsible for disclosing their vaccination status and testing status accurately as required.
Mandatory vaccination policies have previously been implemented by other employers. In those cases, the collection and disclosure of vaccination status was permitted by arbitrators as the only means of enforcing the policy.
Employees have the right to medical privacy and any personal health information that is collected, used, or disclosed must comply with applicable privacy laws. Employers should also limit their questions to gather only the information that is strictly necessary.
- Can my employer require me to be vaccinated?
No one can be physically forced to get a vaccine against their will. However, according to the limited case law available, grievors must live with the consequences of refusing to get vaccinated.
Additionally, employers have an obligation to keep workplaces safe and, in the context of a global pandemic, the federal government requires that employees be vaccinated.
- Do I need to be vaccinated if I am working remotely or teleworking?
Yes, the federal government’s vaccination policy applies to all employees in the core public service, RCMP, CBSA, Correctional Services and all federally regulated workplaces, including employees who are teleworking.
However, where it can be demonstrated that these workers pose no reasonable threat to the health and safety of their workplaces, PSAC believes that it could be argued that the federal government’s and other employers’ mandatory vaccination policies to place these workers on leave without pay constitutes an abusive and coercive exercise of management authority and could potentially be deemed a breach of privacy.
The application of the mandatory vaccination policy to these workers could be deemed unreasonable where there is evidence that these teleworkers pose no health and safety risk and where reasonable alternatives are available (i.e. testing) should these workers be exceptionally required to go into the workplace for one-time events (e.g.: meetings, to pick up equipment etc.)
This would specifically include only teleworkers who have little to no prospect of returning to physical workplaces in the long term, and have been placed on leave without pay, terminated, or disciplined because they continue to choose not to be vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status.
Grievance requests will continue to be considered based on individual merit and specific circumstances of the workplace and jurisdiction in question.
- Can I choose daily COVID testing instead of getting vaccinated?
No, the policy clearly states that testing is not a substitute for vaccination.
- How do I declare my vaccine attestation?
To submit your vaccine attestation, visit the Declare your COVID-19 vaccination status website and follow the instructions. If you are still having trouble, speak with your manager.
- Will booster shots also be mandatory?
The Public Health Agency of Canada has not yet cleared booster doses, so they are not currently mandatory. If booster doses are approved and required in the future, we will update members accordingly.
- Can I be exempted from the federal vaccine mandate?
The vaccine policy states that all employees are to be fully vaccinated, “unless accommodated based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground for discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act.” For employees who fall within these specific accommodations, employers are required to adhere to the Directive on the Duty to Accommodate.
There is no legal obligation for the employer to accommodate employees who have elected not to be vaccinated due to personal beliefs. Personal beliefs are not prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act or any other legislation.
- How can I request an accommodation?
If you are unable to be vaccinated due to a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and are requesting accommodation, you will be required to provide supporting documentation to your manager.
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.
Supporting documentation may include:
- Documentation from the employee’s medical physician or nurse practitioner setting out grounds for not receiving or for delaying the COVID-19 vaccine and specifying whether the reason is permanent or time limited.
- A sworn attestation (signed before a commissioner for taking affidavits) containing detailed information about the sincerely held religious belief that prohibits full vaccination.
- 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.
Read more about the framework for implementation.
- On October 29, I will only be partially vaccinated. How does the policy apply to me?
Partially vaccinated employees will be placed on leave without pay if they have not received their second dose by 10 weeks after their first dose.
For the period during which you are partially vaccinated, the following temporary measures could be considered by management (in order of priority) to ensure the continued safety of the workplace:
- Where operationally feasible, employees will perform regular duties or responsibilities through telework, supported by a telework agreement, as per the Directive on Telework.
- 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.
- I am currently on leave; how does this policy apply to me?
You will have two weeks following your return date to provide your vaccination attestation. If you are scheduled to return from leave prior to October 15, 2021, you must provide your vaccine attestation by October 29, 2021.
- What will happen if I do not get vaccinated?
Public service workers who are unable to provide proof of vaccination will be placed on unpaid leave by November 15, 2021.
- Can I be put on leave without pay for refusing to disclose my vaccine status?
Yes. If you do not submit your vaccine attestation by October 29, 2021, as per the policy you could be placed on leave without pay as early as November 15, 2021.
- Can I exhaust my leave banks before going on leave without pay?
No, there is nothing in the policy that allows managers to approve various paid leaves to avoid vaccination or extend the deadline to be vaccinated.
- Can my employer terminate me for refusing to be vaccinated?
The current Policy on Vaccination does not consider termination of employment or a specific end date to leave without pay. The policy will be reviewed every six months.
- How long can I be placed on leave without pay?
The policy will be in place for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. A date for review of the policy is scheduled to take place in six months. This means that an employee could be placed on leave without pay for at least six months.
- What happens to my benefits if I am put on leave without pay?
The group insurance benefit plans have existing provisions for members of the core public administration on leave without pay. If a benefit plan member goes on authorized leave without pay, they may retain their employer-paid coverage for themselves and their eligible dependants for the first three months, meaning the employer continues to pay the employer share. In the event an employee remains on an authorized leave without pay for more than three months, they are responsible for both the employee and the employer share of contributions for themselves, and their eligible dependents.
Missed employee contributions, if any, are collected upon the employee’s return to work or termination of employment for the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) and Disability Insurance (DI) or Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance plans. The Public Service Management Insurance Plan (PSMIP) life insurance plan coverage may continue provided the employee remits both the employee and employer share of the premiums to Industrial Alliance directly. The Public Service Dental Care Plan (PSDCP) coverage continues at 100% employer paid for the first three months and can continue after that if requested in advance with both the employee and employer share of contributions collected quarterly and in advance.
For details concerning premium or contribution payments, contact the Public Service Pay Centre.
- Can I collect Employment Insurance (EI) or get a second job while on leave without pay?
An employee cannot receive EI payments when on leave without pay as Employment and Social Development Canada’s eligibility requirements consider it to be the same as “if you voluntarily left your job without just cause.”
As for a second job, the employer has no right to limit an employee's activity if they respect the rules and policies concerning conflicts of interest and/or any provisions in a collective agreement that would limit the type of outside work an employee may perform.
- Will PSAC represent me if I choose not to be vaccinated?
Unless you have legitimate medical reasons, or reasons protected by human rights grounds, we strongly encourage members to get vaccinated. Vaccination is a key public health tool to keep you, your community, and your colleagues safe.
If you choose not to get vaccinated for personal reasons, PSAC will look at your case and – if your human rights or workplace rights are being violated – PSAC will support you.
There is a strong possibility that the government’s policy will withstand legal challenges that might be put forward, so the best and safest thing to do is to get vaccinated.
- Who can I contact for support?
Your first point of contact for any accommodation or grievance should always be your local and/or component. If you don’t know what component you belong to, contact your nearest PSAC regional office for support.
Case law has yet to be settled regarding requiring mandatory vaccinations for employees in the workplace, so please note that these FAQs and our responses may change as circumstances evolve.
PSAC has several recommendations and concerns regarding the policy’s implementation, and we will continue to work to ensure the implementation of the policy protects the health and safety, and human rights of our members while ensuring their rights to privacy are respected.
We will keep our members informed as developments arise.