Can my employer make me take a COVID-19 test?
OHRC update on mandatory vaccines, passports and testing
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released their latest take on mandatory vaccines, passports and testing, here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-policy-statement-covid-19-vaccine-mandates-and-proof-vaccine-certificates. In light of this update, and the new directives that the Province released a few weeks ago, we are in the process of updating our covid testing content. Please re-visit the site to access the updated content when it is available.
Please note: This question is being updated to reflect recent changes in the law.
There are rules about what types of medical information employers can make you give them. For example, sometimes they can make you take medical tests, such as alcohol or drug tests, if you have a serious accident at work.
Getting tested at work
Employees have a right to privacy, including privacy about their health. This means that an employer cannot normally force you to:
- tell them your medical information, or
- do a medical test unless they have a good reason.
It's not always clear when your employer has a right to your medical information. If the issue goes to court, the judge will balance your right to privacy against the employer's need for the information.
The law says that employers must provide a safe workplace.
One of the risks that employers need to protect against is COVID-19. This means that they may need some of your medical information about COVID-19 to protect other employees or the public. Because of this, employers can ask for more information than normal.
Screening for COVID-19
The government of Ontario has told employers that they should screen employees for COVID-19 by asking whether they've had:
- any symptoms, or
- any contact with people who have the virus.
The government of Ontario has an online tool for worker and employee screening.
You probably do have to answer screening questions because:
- this advice comes from public health officials, and
- COVID-19 is a serious risk to people's health.
But it's not clear how much more an employer can make you do.
Checking your temperature
Your employer may want to check your temperature before you can go into your workplace.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission says that temperature checks may be okay. These tests can be done using an infrared thermometer that takes your temperature when it's pointed at your forehead.
Your employer can probably do this because:
- it's not very invasive, since nothing is inserted into your body, and
- the risk of COVID-19 is serious.
Getting a COVID-19 test
Most employers will not be allowed to force you to take a COVID-19 test. This is because it's a lot more invasive than a temperature check. To do the test, a swab is inserted into your nose or throat.
Some employers, such as health-care providers, factories, or construction sites, may be allowed to require tests. This is because there's a greater risk of someone getting COVID-19 in these types of places.
The government of Ontario has information about the types of tests employers can use. Most employers will be using rapid tests.
If a rapid test shows that you have COVID-19, you'll have to get a different type of COVID-19 test at a government test centre or community lab.
What your employer can do with the information
If your employer takes any kind of test, they must do it in a way that respects your right to privacy. This means that they must collect as little information as possible. And they can share the information only with people who need to know.
If you test positive for COVID-19, your employer should not discipline or fire you because of it. This is because Ontario's human rights laws say that everyone has the right to:
- be treated equally, and
- not be discriminated against at work because of a disability or serious sickness like COVID-19.
Getting legal help
If you're not sure that your employer is following the law or you want to know more about getting a COVID-19 test at work, get legal help.
Read more about whether your employer can make you get vaccinated in Can anyone force me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?