The Ontario government recently amended the rules under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 to require patrons to provide proof of identification and full vaccination status against COVID-19 prior to entering certain indoor establishments. Additionally, the government released a guidance document for specified businesses and organizations to comply with. These requirements come into effect on September 22, 2021 (see our blog for more details on which establishments are subject to these requirements).
A “fully vaccinated” patron is defined in the guidance document as someone who has received:
- the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada, or any combination of such vaccines,
- one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada, followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada, or
- three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada.
The final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine must have been received by the individual at least 14 days prior to the date that the individual wishes to enter the establishment.
Exceptions to the Proof of Vaccination and Identification Requirements
Patrons are exempt from the requirements if they are entering an indoor area solely to do one of the following:
- use a washroom;
- access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route;
- make a retail purchase;
- while placing or picking up an order, including placing a bet or picking up winnings in the case of a horse racing track;
- while paying for an order;
- to purchase admission; or
- as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.
Moreover, these requirements do not apply to workers, contractors, repair workers, delivery workers, students, volunteers, inspectors or others who are entering the establishment for work purposes and not as patrons. They also do not apply to patrons:
- who are under 12 years of age;
- who are under 18 years of age and are entering a sports and recreational fitness facility for the sole purpose of actively participating in an organized sport. This includes sports leagues, organized pick-up sports, dance classes, martial arts, and swimming classes. The exemption does not include youth who are spectators at sporting events, or who are using a gym or other area with exercise equipment unless they are actively participating in an organized event;
- who provide a written medical document that sets out a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the effective time-period for the medical reason;
- who are entering the indoor area of a meeting or event space (e.g., a conference centre or convention centre) solely for the purpose of attending a wedding service, rite or ceremony, or a funeral service, rite or ceremony, but not an associated social gathering. Patrons attending an associated social gathering between September 22, 2021 but before October 13, 2021 will have to provide results of an antigen test administered within the previous 48 hours establishing that the person is negative for COVID-19.
Businesses or organizations that are not listed under the regulation, including those that provide medical care, groceries, and basic medical supplies, are also exempt from implementing the proof of vaccination and identification requirements for patrons.
Considerations for Employers For Patrons With a Medical Exemption
Where patrons provide medical documentation in support of a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine, businesses and organizations need to ensure that the name of the person on the documentation matches the name on the identification provided. The medical documentation should include the name, contact information, and logo or letterhead of the physician or registered nurse in the extended class, as well as a statement that the patron has a medical reason for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Lastly, the medical documentation must include an effective time-period for the medical reason which sets out the date that the patron is seeking access to the business or organization.
Steps for Employers When Assessing Proof of Vaccination
The guidance document clarifies what is required for the proof of vaccination and proof of identification materials. With respect to proof of vaccination, patrons can either present the vaccination receipt that they received at the time of their vaccination, or a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination receipt that is accessed through the provincial portal. With respect to proof of identification, photo identification is not required. Instead, the patron must provide two (2) key identifiers: the name of the patron, and their date of birth.
Establishments must follow these required steps when assessing proof of vaccination requirements:
- Ensure that the name and date of birth of the patron’s vaccination receipt matches the information on the piece of identification provided;
- Verify that the vaccination receipt is either:
- An Ontario receipt issued at the time of vaccination or downloaded from the provincial portal and indicates the patron is fully vaccinated, or
- A receipt signed by an Indigenous Health Provider, or
- A receipt from another jurisdiction that shows the patron is fully vaccinated against COVID-19;
- Verify that the receipt shows that the holder is fully vaccinated; and
- Verify that the date of administration of the final vaccine is at least fourteen (14) days prior to the date that the patron is seeking access to the business or organization.
Employers should note that the government will implement a vaccine certificate system that utilizes a QR-code. Currently, the government intends to introduce this QR-based vaccine certificate by October 22, 2021. Once introduced, patrons would then be allowed to provide either the paper or PDF copy of their vaccine receipt or present their QR code.
The penalties for failure to comply with these requirements can result in charges under the Reopening Ontario Act, with set fines of $750 for individuals and $1,000 for corporations. Maximum penalties are up to $100,000 and a year in jail for an individual, up to $500,000 and a year in jail for an individual who is a director or officer of a corporation, and up to $10 million for a corporation.
Takeaways for Employers
Employers that are required to ask patrons for proof of identification and vaccination as of September 22, 2021 must ensure that they develop internal processes and train their employees to adequately address these requirements. Employers should ensure that staff are trained on who is exempt from needing to provide proof of vaccination.
The establishment should respect privacy considerations with respect to screening patrons for their vaccination status. As mentioned in the guidance document, establishments must not retain information provided by the patron in relation to the proof of identification and vaccination against COVID-19.
Employers should be aware of the possible risks of harassment that employees may face from patrons who are not fully vaccinated and implement appropriate measures to mitigate such risks where it exists.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.