Fall 2021

COVID-19 Update: Practice Considerations for Social Workers, Social Service Workers and Their Employers

As the Ontario government gradually lifts remaining public health and workplace safety measures over the next six months, the College is providing an update around practice considerations for social workers and social service workers and their employers.

Using professional judgment

The College continues to take its cues from government and public health authorities, and we remind employers and members to do the same.

The College is advising members and employers 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. The College encourages social workers and social service workers to use the ETHICS-A: Ethical Decision-Making Tool to assist them in applying their professional judgment.

College members and employers are advised to consult the College’s practice resources regularly, including:

Asking about proof of vaccination status

As noted in an October 27, 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.

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 and employers should read the OHRC policy statement in its entirety.

It is also important to 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 and employers who are considering whether to ask 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

Employers of social workers and social service workers should continue to visit the College’s centralized webpage to access all information related to COVID-19, including 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.