FAQ: Vaccinations and the workplace

Employers are looking ahead to how and when they can safely reopen offices, and many employers — including municipalities, provinces, and the federal government — are implementing vaccination mandates for their employees.  

PSAC remains in support of vaccination requirements to protect the health and safety of our members and their communities.  

We have compiled several frequently asked questions to provide PSAC members working in sectors outside the federal government with everything they need to know on this important issue. This page will be regularly updated to reflect the changing circumstances. 

  • Can my employer ask about my vaccination status?

    Yes, if this is part of the return to the office plan for employees. If a mandatory vaccination policy has been implemented, asking for vaccination status is permitted because it is the only means of enforcing that policy. However, the employer has a responsibility to guarantee the confidentiality of all medical information collected. 
  • Can my employer require me to be vaccinated?

    No one can be physically forced to get a vaccine against their will. However, employers have an obligation to keep workplaces safe and, in the context of a global pandemic, may require employees to be vaccinated to return to the office.

    Many employers are implementing vaccination mandates for their employees, and it is likely that this practice will become more common in the future. This is especially true as vaccine certificates or passports become required to access certain non-essential public services or establishments. 
  • Can I be exempted from my workplace vaccination mandate? 

    Employees may be eligible for exemption under human rights legislation, like the Canadian Human Rights Act, Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Quebec Charter, for a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground for discrimination. If an employee is protected by one of these listed grounds, the employer must work with the employee to identify options for accommodation. Documentation may be required at any time by your employer to prove your need for an exemption.

    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 human rights legislation. 
  • Can my employer discipline or terminate me for refusing to be vaccinated?

    An employer may impose consequences on employees who refuse to comply with mandatory vaccine policies, which may include placing the employee on leave without pay or termination.

    Employees should always work with the employer to find alternate options where possible, such as wearing personal protective equipment, regular COVID-19 testing, or alternative work arrangements.   
  • Can I collect Employment Insurance (EI) if I lose my job due to vaccination status? 

    Canada’s employment minister recently announced that employees who are terminated for not adhering to an employer’s vaccination policy will likely be ineligible for EI as it is a condition of employment that has not been met. 
  • 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.

    There is a strong possibility that workplace vaccination policies will withstand legal challenges that may be put forward, so the best and safest thing to do is to get vaccinated. 

    If you choose not to get vaccinated, PSAC will look at your case and – if your human rights or collective agreement rights are being violated – PSAC will support you. 
  • Who can I contact for support? 

    Your first point of contact for any accommodation or grievance should always be your local and/or your component. If you do not know which component you belong to, contact your nearest PSAC regional office for support. 

Next Steps 

PSAC will continue to ensure that the implementation of any workplace vaccination policies protect the health, safety, and human rights of our members while respecting their rights to privacy. 

We will keep our members informed as developments arise. 


October 28, 2021