Whitehorse City Hall. City employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 20. (Yukon News file)

Whitehorse City Hall. City employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 20. (Yukon News file)

Vaccine mandate issued for City of Whitehorse employees

Employees will require two COVID-19 vaccine doses by Feb. 20

The City of Whitehorse’s approximately 435 employees will be required to have two doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 20, 2022.

That is unless they complete a medical accommodation process showing they’ve been deemed by a doctor to need an exemption from the vaccine, Lindsay Schneider, the city’s director of human resources, confirmed in a Nov. 29 email.

The city announced the mandatory vaccine directive on Nov. 26.

“As one of the largest employers in the territory, the city has an obligation to protect its workforce, as well as the public that uses our facilities on a daily basis,” said Mayor Laura Cabott. “The safety of our residents is a top priority as we continue to offer a high level of service during this pandemic.”

In its statement, the city highlighted the territorial Occupational Health and Safety Act, which “requires the city to take all reasonable steps to ensure its workplace is safe.”

The city went on to point out that the territory is in a state of emergency, which was declared Nov. 8 due to rising COVID-19 numbers (though numbers are now decreasing).

The city has continually encouraged staff to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Guidance from the chief medical officer demonstrates the vaccines provide a high level of protection against COVID-19 and its variants, it said.

Officials pointed out the city is among a number of large employers throughout the territory that have already established mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Yukon government employees, for example, must have their first vaccine dose by Nov. 30 and a second dose by Jan. 30.

Schneider said the city will start its own process by gathering attestations from employees by Dec. 13.

It will then begin developing a plan for the Feb. 20 deadline and is looking options, such as leave without pay, for employees who do not meet the deadline.

Schneider said the city is not yet aware of any employees planning to leave the city due to the mandate.

“The hope is that our employees will follow the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and receive the vaccination in order to provide a safe workplace for all city staff,” she said. “A plan will be developed after Dec 13th once the city has time to analyze the data collected from the attestations.”

For those who require it, Schneider said the details for each accommodation will be unique and based on the medical information and particular position the employee has with the city.

“The safety of all staff is paramount, therefore the city will continue to ensure that the proper safety practices are in place,” she said.

The city employs approximately 435 staff in permanent, temporary and casual positions.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com