City of Edmonton to require all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19

The wading pool outside Edmonton City Hall on Monday, June 28, 2021, during a heat wave. Global News

The City of Edmonton is giving its employees just under two months to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A letter sent to workers Monday said the city’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for all City of Edmonton employees is now in effect.

“As one of Alberta’s largest employers, the City of Edmonton has a duty to support provincial efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and bring an end to the pandemic,” the letter from deputy city manager Kimberly Armstrong said.

The city said it recently asked its employees to disclose if they’d been immunized or not. The city said 86 per cent of employees responded, and as of Sept. 13, 72 per cent of employees indicated they were fully vaccinated.

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“Information provided by our staff tells us that we need the additional control measure of vaccinations in our workplaces to minimize the serious hazard of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible,” said city manager Andre Corbould.

“We believe the vaccination policy, along with all of our other controls will provide a level of comfort and certainty.”

By Sept. 30, the city said employees must have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, proof of which will need to be submitted to the employer by Oct. 8.

By Oct. 31, employees must have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and submitted proof.

All employees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine) by Nov. 15.

Employees who are not fully vaccinated by then have two options: either participate in a twice-weekly COVID-19 rapid antigen test at the employee’s own expense, or be placed on leave without pay.

All employees are required to comply with the policy unless they are exempted for medical or religious reasons, the city said, adding employees who provide false or misleading information could be disciplined or lose their jobs.

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“The physical and psychological health and safety of employees remain a top priority for all of us. While I know that this policy will be met with mixed emotions and challenges, a vaccination policy is simply the right thing to do,” Armstrong said.

The city said by stopping the spread of COVID-19 it can keep facilities open, services running and employees safe and healthy.

“A vaccination policy provides a level of comfort and certainty for all employees. Other workplace control measures, including physical distancing, pre-shift screening and masking are also essential in the response to COVID-19 and will continue.”

Edmonton Police Service releases vaccine stance

On Monday afternoon, the Edmonton Police Service released its stance, which closely mirrors the city’s but does not go as far as making vaccines mandatory.

“While the EPS’ vaccination rate is relatively high, the current circumstances in Alberta warrant continued measures to address COVID-19 risk. As such, the EPS is implementing protocols to ensure we are providing a safe environment for our employees and the citizens we serve,” Edmonton police spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said in a statement. She did not say what the force’s vaccination rate was.

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EPS said effective Monday, Oct. 18, employees who do not indicate they are fully vaccinated (14 days after their second dose) will be required to either submit to COVID-19 rapid testing at their own expense or go on leave without pay “until circumstances change such that EPS amends these protocols.”

Police said employees who cannot be vaccinated or submit to rapid testing as a result of a protected characteristic, e.g., disability, religious beliefs, will be reasonably accommodated on an individualized basis, EPS said.

Volunteers and contractors will also be required to either indicate they have been fully vaccinated or submit to rapid testing.

The City of Edmonton is the latest employer to require its employees to be vaccinated.

Already, many of Canada’s major banks and some top employers like Air Canada, WestJet and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. are following the lead of the federal government, which announced in August that employees must be fully vaccinated before returning to their workplaces.

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