On September 1, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced that as of September 22, 2021, individuals must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status along with a photo ID to gain entry into certain establishments, subject to limited exemptions discussed below. Moreover, the province will introduce QR code-based vaccination passports, which are expected to be implemented by October 12, 2021.
For the purposes of the new requirements, the government has stated that a fully vaccinated individual is a person who has received two doses of an accepted COVID-19 vaccination (see an official list of accepted vaccines here), and who received their second dose at least 14 days ago.
Until Ontario vaccination passports are implemented, the proof of vaccination that individuals will generally be required to show in order to enter certain establishments is either the paper or PDF version of a vaccine receipt showing that they are fully vaccinated. However, in the coming weeks, the province will implement vaccination passports consisting of a digital vaccine receipt that can be accessed through a QR code which can be stored on a mobile phone.
Higher-Risk Public Settings Will Require Proof of Vaccination Status
The new proof of vaccination requirements will only apply to certain publicly accessible settings with an elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission, including but not limited to:
- restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, and delivery and takeout);
- nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
- meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
- facilities used for sports and fitness activities and person fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
- sporting events;
- casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
- concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
- strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs; and
- racing venues (e.g. horse racing).
The following individuals will be exempt from the new proof of vaccination requirements:
- individuals who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (however, such individuals must present a doctor’s note to enter the settings to which the new requirements apply);
- between September 22, 2021 and October 12, 2021, individuals attending wedding or funeral receptions at a meeting or event space will be able to provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from no more than 48 hours before the event as an alternative to proof of vaccination; and
- children who are 11 years of age or younger and are unable to be vaccinated.
Notably, the new proof of vaccination requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores, or medical supplies.
The government has also indicated that it will provide additional business supports related to the new requirements and alternative tools for people who have no email address, health card or photo ID to be permitted entry into the settings to which the new requirements apply.
Takeaways for Employers
Employers with establishments that will be subject to the new requirements should ensure that they develop legally compliant policies and procedures, and train their staff accordingly, prior to the requirements coming into effect on September 22, 2021. These policies and procedures should outline how customers and clients will be required to present a vaccine receipt proving that they are fully vaccinated, in addition to a photo ID, prior to entering the premises, unless they are subject to a specific exemption. Further, Employers should ensure that all employees are trained on who is exempt from needing to provide proof of vaccination, and the requirements related to certain of these exemptions, such as proof of a negative COVID-19 test or a doctor’s note, as applicable.
Impacted employers should also consider whether exempted individuals should be subject to any additional health and safety measures, such as the use of additional PPE or increased physical distancing, based on the COVID-19 related risks for their particular workplace, subject to applicable human rights legislation. However, such employers are strongly encouraged to get legal advice before doing so to minimize any human rights exposures.
Given that the number of COVID-19 and Delta variant cases have not yet stabilized, it remains to be seen whether the Ontario government will expand the settings to which the proof of vaccination requirements will apply. As such, all Ontario employers should continue monitoring for any further changes to the COVID-19 related public health guidelines and legal requirements which may apply to their business or organization, so that they can ensure compliance.
As always, please contact any of our lawyers if you would like assistance related to the new proof of vaccination requirements or any other pandemic-related challenges currently confronting employers.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.