Can my employer make me take a COVID-19 test?

It depends on what kind of work you do, and whether you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Ontario government has told some employers that they must require COVID-19 tests before allowing people who can't prove they are fully vaccinated into workplaces.

Other employers can choose to have rules about COVID-19 tests.

Getting tested at work

Employees have a right to privacy, including privacy about their health. This means that normally an employer can't force you to:

  • tell them your medical information, or
  • take a medical test, unless they have a good reason.

But an employee's right to privacy is balanced against the employers need for information to provide a safe workplace. A safe workplace includes taking steps to try to stop the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. This means your employer might need some of your medical information about COVID-19 to protect other employees or the public. And if you refuse to provide this information, you may be required to take medical tests to prove that you don't have COVID-19.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has said that in certain cases the COVID-19 pandemic is a good reason for medical testing.

Getting a COVID-19 test

Government-required testing rules

Some employers must test workers who can't prove that they are fully vaccinated before allowing them into the workplace. This includes employees, students, contractors, and volunteers who work in:

  • hospitals
  • paramedic services
  • long-term care homes
  • retirement homes
  • universities and colleges
  • schools
  • certain home care and community services, like adult day programs and nursing services

To enter the workplace, you must:

  1. get a rapid test,
  2. get a negative result from the last test taken, and
  3. give your employer proof of your test results.

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.

The rules say these employers must test at least once every 7 days, but they can also test more often. And some employers must test more often. For example, school boards must test unvaccinated staff 2 times a week, at least 3 days apart.

Your employer can ask that you get tested outside of work hours.

Your employer should not make you pay for these tests. The government provides the tests for free to employers who must have COVID-19 testing rules. If your employer is charging you for tests, get legal help.

Employer chooses to make testing rules

Your employer can also choose to make rules about COVID-19 tests. These rules need to be fair.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has said testing might be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it will depend on where you work. For example, it might be fair for an employer to require a negative test result if an employee works closely with other workers and clients indoors. But it might not be fair for an employer to have the same rule for employees who are working at home.

Your employer should:

  • choose a test that works, like a government-approved rapid test
  • only allow trained people to give tests
  • only test when necessary

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.

There are no laws about how often your employer can test you. The Ontario government recommends that, if testing is needed, employers do it at least once every 7 days, but they can also test 2 or 3 times a week.

Your employer can ask that you get tested outside of work hours.

Your employer should not make you pay for these tests. The government provides free tests to employers who can't have everyone working from home.

If your employer is charging you for tests, or if you are concerned about their testing rules, get legal help.

What your employer can do with the information

If your employer gives you any kind of medical test or collects medical information, they must do it in a way that respects your right to privacy.

This means that your employer must collect as little information as possible. And they can share the information only with people who need to know. For example, if you test negative for COVID-19, this information should only be shared with the person or team responsible for keeping COVID-19 screening records. And the record should be kept in a secure place.

If you test positive for COVID-19, your employer should you. For example, this might mean allowing you to work at home or looking at other ways you can continue to work safely if you feel well enough to work.

They should also not discipline or fire you because of a positive COVID-19 result. 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 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.

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