27 Oct 2021

Message from the Registrar and CEO: COVID-19 Update Around Practice Considerations

The Ontario government recently announced its gradual approach to lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures over the next six months. As noted in the document A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, the government will monitor trends in COVID-19 provincial and local public health and health system indicators including COVID-19 cases and increases in hospitalizations to ensure that public health and workplace safety measures can be lifted safely.

In light of this recent announcement, the College is providing the following practice considerations for social workers and social service workers.

Using Professional Judgment

As the College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, we are advising members to use their professional judgment when deciding how and when it is appropriate to resume in-person services or to continue to provide services by electronic means.

There are several factors to be considered in relation to this important decision, including client needs and/or preferences. Members are encouraged to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment.

College members should also ensure that they are up to date with respect to information and guidance from government and public health authorities and consult the following College practice resources:

Asking About Proof of Vaccination Status

As noted in an October 7, 2021 eBulletin, the Professional Practice Department continues to receive requests from members wondering if they are permitted to ask their clients about their vaccination status.

Information provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health notes that proof of vaccination is required in specific settings, but not in places where people receive medical care.

As previously shared with members, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued a policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates which can be viewed at the following link: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-policy-statement-covid-19-vaccine-mandates-and-proof-vaccine-certificates.

Mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated.

Important note: The preceding sentence is taken from the OHRC’s September 22, 2021 “OHRC policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates.” Members should read the OHRC policy statement in its entirety.

Members should also consider the following:

  • A client’s vaccination is sensitive personal health information and should treat such information accordingly.
  • All clients should be treated consistently, which may require College members and/or their places of employment to adopt a policy regarding vaccination matters.

College members who are considering whether to ask their clients about their vaccination status, even though this may not be required in their practice setting, should obtain professional advice regarding the legal, liability, privacy and human rights aspects of the issues that exist in relation to vaccination matters.

Staying Informed

Members should continue to visit the College’s centralized webpage to access practice support and eBulletins which have been sent to members and other stakeholders throughout the pandemic. A list of frequently asked questions is also accessible on the COVID-19 Updates webpage.

Thank you once again for your ongoing dedication and service.

Keep well.

Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW

Registrar and CEO