A mandatory COVID-19 vaccination verification policy has been approved for City of Hamilton employees.
The policy, approved by city council during a special meeting on Thursday, requires staff to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by Sept. 15.
City employees who have not been vaccinated, or refuse to disclose their status by that date, must participate in an education session, get their first dose by Sept. 30 and be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, unless they have a medical or human rights exemption.
“If they don’t want to get vaccinated, that is their choice,” said Lora Fontana, Hamilton’s executive director of human resources.
“We just are putting in provisions,” said Fontana, “as to what will happen if the employee chooses not to get vaccinated or if they choose not to disclose their vaccination status.”
Fontana adds that employees not vaccinated for COVID-19 “will have to go through regular COVID testing, on a regular basis, though we haven’t determined what that basis will be.”
She says disciplinary action written into the policy is “vague” because it’s not the focus of the initiative.
“So we will deal with cases really on a case by case basis, quite frankly,” Fontana said in post meeting presser.
“We’ll look at the circumstances of each individual. We certainly respect their human rights, their privacy considerations and their unique circumstances, we’re not implementing this policy with a view of terminating employees.”
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark believes the policy will “withstand any appeals” because “it really does balance individual rights, human rights, constitutional rights, with the need to protect our employees and any resident that is dealing directly with our employees.”
A recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, due to the spread of the Delta variant, and the effectiveness of vaccinations are also cited as reasons for creating the policy.
Hamilton’s policy applies to all of the city’s roughly 7,000 full-time, part-time, temporary, casual and student workers, as well as members of council and volunteers.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says Hamilton’s policy is similar others recently set out by the city of Toronto, a number of national banks and other businesses in the absence of provincial legislation.
“It would make it infinitely easier for everyone if there were a standardized, legislated policy that we could all follow and adhere to. But we don’t have that,” Eisenberger said.
“So we’re we’re doing the best we can to ensure that we as a as a major employer, that we protect the interests of our employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.”