Update to required COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants (October 6, 2021)

By October 6, 2021COVID-19

Earlier today, Treasury Board announced that federal public servants will have to attest they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, how they will need to do it and by when, and what happens if they don’t.

This follows August’s announcement, when the government announced its intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal public servants.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Today’s update provided more details, including that all federal public servants, even those working from home will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, must do so by October 29 and attest to it online. This includes all public servants, including members and reservists of the RCMP.

Treasury Board said that, “starting October 6, 2021, employees will be onboarded in phases to provide their vaccine attestation through a secure online system, and they must do so by October 29, 2021.”

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

Values and ethics

Treasury Board emphasized that public servants, “have an obligation to provide true attestations.”

Making a false statement would constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Attestations will be audited and managers can ask for proof of vaccination at any time.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Privacy concerns

Unions expressed concern back in August over the privacy of public servants and how their rights would be respected.

Treasury Board reiterated that the collection of private information will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act and Policy on Privacy Protection:

The collection of all personal information from public servants will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act, the Policy on Privacy Protection and its related instruments. Data on vaccination rates within the federal public service is expected to be available in the coming weeks.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Exemptions

Back in August, unions were also vocal about the government needing to provide accommodations for public servants who could not be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

In today’s announcement, Treasury Board said that exemptions will apply as, “Employees who are unable to be vaccinated based on a prohibited ground as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as a medical contraindication, may request accommodation.”

Leave without pay for those unwilling to disclose status / unwilling to get fully vaccinated

Then as of November 15, 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

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

Unions react

Despite Treasury Board saying today’s announcement was informed by input from unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), one of the largest federal public service unions said that it wasn’t. They said, while they support a policy to vaccinate federal public servants, there was no meaningful consultation with unions and the policy falls short.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said that, “our primary concern is ensuring that all PIPSC members are in compliance.” PIPSC also linked to a form on their website to request help from the union in the event a public servant’s request for accommodation to be unvaccinated is denied.

Other links:

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

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

PIPSC: Mandatory vaccination help form

PSAC: Federal government releases vaccination policy without proper consultation

Treasury Board announces intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants