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Toronto city workers who refuse COVID-19 vaccination could be fired
Aug. 27, 2021
Joshua Freeman

The City of Toronto has confirmed that employees who refuse to get vaccinated could potentially lose their jobs.

City officials announced last week that they would implement a mandatory vaccination policy for the Toronto civil service.

Under the policy, city employees must disclose their vaccination status by Sept. 13. Those who are unvaccinated or who refuse to disclose their vaccination status will have to participate in a mandatory educational session.

By Sept. 30, all employees aside from those with medical or human rights exceptions will need to have had at least one vaccine dose. By Oct. 30, all employees are expected to be fully vaccinated.

Asked last week what consequences employees may face if they refused to get vaccinated, city officials said that “all options are on the table” but said more details would be released when the policy was finalized.

Text of the policy posted to the city’s website Thursday makes clear that dismissal could be one possible outcome for those who ultimately refuse to get vaccinated.

“Employees who do not comply with this policy may be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal,” the policy states.

The policy does not specify under what exact circumstances an employee could be terminated for non-compliance.

All levels of government and many businesses have recently announced vaccination policies that require employees to be vaccinated.  Some of them offer regular COVID-19 testing as an alternative for those who are not vaccinated.

But others, such as the University Health Network, have recently said that employees who refuse to get vaccinated will eventually be considered to have tendered their resignation.

In a news release about the city’s policy Thursday, Mayor John Tory called it "the right thing to do" and said that staff feedback has indicated a desire for a safer workplace amid a fourth wave of the pandemic.

“We know that vaccines work. We know they prevent severe cases of COVID-19, and the instances of unvaccinated people ending up in our hospitals and ICUs is significantly higher,” Tory said in the statement. “We have an obligation to protect the health and safety of our employees, their loved ones, and the residents and visitors we serve. This is the right thing to do and it will ensure we continue to do everything we can as a City government to combat COVID-19 and bring this pandemic to an end.”

More stringent vaccination policies have been announced recently as governments and businesses try to find a way to make sure they can stay open amid yet another uptick in cases, this one driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Going forward, all new City of Toronto employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of being hired, the city also said Thursday.

The new city policy around vaccinations will go into effect on Sept. 7.