As part of their most recent pandemic response report, the Town of Gravenhurst explained their covid-19 vaccination policy to council during the most recent Committee of the Whole meeting.
The policy includes all employees, contractors, volunteers, students, members of council and council-appointed committees and the members of the public who may access our services, said director of human resources, Elaine Harkiss-Laird. The policy takes effect in November.
“The policy requires proof of a vaccination series or those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons or any other reason supported by the Ontario Human Rights code. Those who are exempt will have to undergo a rapid-test at a frequency determined by the Town,” said Harkiss-Laird. The cost of the tests will be reimbursed.
Those who choose to remain unvaccinated and are not on approved accomodation will still be required to do rapid antigen testing and they will have to absorb the cost themselves. Harkiss-Laird said that the frequency of testing “has been left a bit open” and will be determined by recommendations from the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit.
Harkiss-Laird explained that employees who fail to comply with the policy will be subject to progressive discipline. She said this applies “regardless of how work is being done, for example, if an employee is working from home, the policy still applies to them.”
Vaccination will also be a condition of employment for all new Town staff.
“And if it’s a member of the public, they would be denied access to our services and if it’s a contractor, then we would look at our relationship with them and their ability to do work for us.
Coun. Klinck asked if council had a number as to how many employees are unvaccinated. Harkiss-Laird replied that they had not surveyed staff so she could not provide an exact number, but that “we believe the majority of staff have been vaccinated, although I believe there are a number of staff who have not been. I do not know at this point in time if it’s a personal belief that has stopped them from being vaccinated or if they would be someone applying for an accommodation.”
Mayor Kelly said that this was discussed at the district level also, and that it would only be “a matter of time” before they had a number, as the policy will essentially make an employee disclose their vaccination status.
Coun. Cairns asked if those who are medically exempt, would they have to undergo the rapid testing “to protect themselves and those around them.” Harkiss-Laird said yes they would have to tested and they would be reimbursed.
Coun. Varney asked if religious reasons would be accepted for accommodation. Harkiss-Laird said that it would be determined on a “case-by-case basis” if the person had a valid reason that would violate the Ontario Human Rights code.
Varney also inquired if a Town employee could be terminated if they were not exempt and failed to comply with the policy, and if so, was it considered to be termination with cause or without. Harkiss-Laird said she believed it would be justified as with cause.
Harkiss-Laird noted that the policy “very closely mirrors that of the District of Muskoka.” And she reminded council that “as with all things covid, change happens quickly and we may have to make amendments in the future.”
The next council meeting is Nov. 16 at 3pm.
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