UHN says employees not vaccinated by end of October will be fired
Published Friday, August 20, 2021 6:34PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 20, 2021 7:56PM EDT
The University Health Network has confirmed that any employees who decide not to get vaccinated by the end of October will be terminated.
UHN—whose hospitals include Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret—confirmed the new policy in a statement released Friday evening.
In the statement, the hospital network said it has “connected” with the more than 900 staff who have either not provided their vaccination status or have indicated they are not vaccinated.
“We indicated that they should have their first shot by September 8, which allows for a second shot by October 8,” the statement reads.
“We will work with anyone in the group to answer questions, give additional information about the vaccine and we very much hope that, as people working in health care who are committed to their patients and colleagues, that they will comply with the policy.”
After Oct. 8, anyone who is still not vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave for two weeks, officials said.
“If it is still their decision at the end of two weeks is that they will not be vaccinated after that date, their employment at UHN will end.”
Prior to this new directive, staff at UHN who were not vaccinated or who did nor provide their vaccination status had to submit to regular COVID-19 testing prior to arriving at work.
Kevin Smith, the health network's CEO, told CTV News Toronto earlier this week the policy led to an uptick in vaccinations. The percentage of employees vaccinated rose from 85 per cent in late July to the current rate of 92 per cent.
Speaking to CP24 Friday evening, Toronto-based employment lawyer Daniel Lublin said the move by UHN should be “applauded” for making clear what will happen in the event an employee does refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.
“The problem with the compulsory vaccination policies that we've seen from the big banks, the federal governments and others is they've been sufficiently or completely ambiguous as to what will happen in the event you don't vaccinate. And that's not going to really drive any behavioral change,” Lublin said.
While employers can't actually force employees to vaccinate, Lublin said they can create rules and protocols for the betterment of the workplace, which, if not followed, could result in termination.
“Those individuals who refuse to abide by those rules can be terminated, but they do have a right to severance,” he said.
The change in policy by UHN comes a few days after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health released new guidelines for vaccinations in the healthcare and education sector.
As of Sept. 7, all employees, staff, contractors, students, volunteers and ambulance services at hospitals and in-home and community care services will be required to show proof of vaccination or a medical reason for not being vaccinated.
All individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination with both doses will have to take regular antigen COVID-19 tests. They will also be required to complete an educational session.