Highlights: GC vaccination policy & GC-VATS

By October 12, 2021COVID-19

Last week, the COVID-19 vaccination policy for the federal public service was rolled out, which included a new online system called GC-VATS where public servants must login to confirm their vaccination status.

Over the past week, many public servants have been active on social media, posting about how the online attestation has been an effortless, smooth process.

Others have also been posting in some circles online that this runs contrary to the public service’s own policies, as well as early discussion around crowdsourced fundraising campaigns online (such as GoFundMe) for those who may be put on leave without pay, should they be unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or unwilling to be vaccinated.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Before October 29, 2021:

Public servants must login to the new online system called “GC-VATS” (Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System) and then follow a series of steps:

Not everyone will be able to do so at once, as Treasury Board indicated that as of October 6, departments will be onboarded in phases.

Then as of November 15, 2021:

Public servants will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:

  • their manager has determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, and they remain unvaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service, including the RCMP can be found here.

General highlights:

  • The policy states that public servants must comply with this policy regardless of whether they work onsite, remotely, or telework, “given that operational requirements may include ad hoc onsite presence.”
  • Leave code 699 (Other Leave With Pay), is not available for employees unwilling to be fully vaccinated or unwilling to disclose their vaccination status.
  • The policy also touches on a range of topics including: roles and responsibilities for employees and managers, the duty to accommodate those who can’t be vaccinated, ensuring a respectful workplace free from harassing anyone based on their vaccination status, privacy, and consequences of non-compliance.

Employees are responsible for:

  • Disclosing their vaccination and testing status accurately as required by this policy;
  • Providing truthful information. Failure to do so could constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action;
  • Informing their manager of their need for accommodation based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act at the earliest opportunity or by the attestation deadline, if possible;
  • Providing their manager with complete and accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation,
  • Refraining from directing harassment or any other prohibited conduct toward an individual for any reason, including their vaccination status or accommodation measures.

Read the full list here.

Managers are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that employees who report to them know how to enter their vaccine attestations and any associated data or information in any system (GC-VATS);
  • Reviewing vaccine attestations and any associated data or information entered by employees who report to them, for the purpose of validating that the information complies with the requirements;
  • Responding to employees’ requests for accommodation under the Duty to Accommodate, as outlined above, including:
    • Informing the employee of their obligations;
    • Gathering the relevant information;
    • Making decisions as to whether the duty to accommodate applies;
    • Implementing the decision by identifying the appropriate accommodation measures, which may include mandatory testing; and,
    • Documenting the process.
  • Maintaining a respectful, productive, inclusive, and equitable environment.

Read the full list here.

How to request an accomodation:

Treasury Board indicated that for those who are unable to be vaccinated, accommodation may be determined on a case-by-case basis.  

Employees unable to be fully vaccinated should: 

  • At the earliest opportunity, inform their manager of their need for accommodation based on prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • Provide their manager with the accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation, including information on relevant limitations and restrictions; 
  • Cooperate and collaborate in good faith with their organization’s representative(s) to find one or more means to accommodate such needs; and,
  • Notify their manager if their accommodation needs change. 

Consequences of non-compliance:

Within 2 weeks of the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Public servants will be required to attend an online training session on COVID-19 vaccination.

At 2 weeks after the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Leave without pay and restricted access to the workplace, off-site visits, business travel and conferences.

Read the full list here.

Privacy:

The policy states that, “personal information will be collected and managed in accordance with the Privacy Act.”

Ensuring a respectful workplace:

The policy also states that, “harassment or other prohibited conduct directed toward an individual for any reason, including based on their vaccination status, will not be tolerated.”

Other links:

GC-VATS (the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System)

Policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

Fact sheet: I am unable to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: I am unwilling to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: Information for managers

News release: Prime Minister announces mandatory vaccination for the federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sectors

Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce