Current legislation allows employers to consider whether unvaccinated employees can keep their job. According to the Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces, which was amended in June this year by the Employment & Labour Department, employers should undertake a risk assessment regarding whether they intend to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for their employees.
‘We are not working on legislation for mandatory vaccination in the workplace,’ said Musa Zondi, the acting communications director for the Department of Employment & Labour, according to a Mail & Guardian report (link below).
‘The current legislation does not say anything about Covid-19. However, the Minister has issued directions or guidelines to be followed, considering the Covid-19 pandemic. These are readily available on our website.’
In the risk assessment, employers with more than 50 employees have to assess the risk in terms of the employee’s nature of work and the risk of severe illness or death due to Covid-19 concerning their age and comorbidities. The employer is also obliged to develop or amend the company’s Covid-19 plans to include mandatory vaccination measures, inform workers about Covid-19 vaccines, help employees register for vaccination, give employees paid time off so they can get vaccinated, and allow employees who experienced side-effects from the vaccination to take sick leave.
When it comes to mandatory vaccination, which was added into the guidelines by the department, the constitutional rights of the employees, public health imperatives and the efficient operation of the business were some of the interests that employers should consider when enforcing mandatory vaccination in the workplace.
The vaccination of employees was not mandatory and the Constitution protected all citizens, notes MP and labour spokesperson for the DA, Michael Bagraim.
‘SA does not have mandatory vaccination. The Constitution protects every single individual, and allows each individual bodily integrity. Furthermore, President Ramaphosa has, on no less than three occasions, announced the above mentioned fact on national television. Nobody can be forced to have a vaccination,’ said Bagraim.
But there have been instances where, Bagraim says, a dispute arose because employees refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and employers dismissed them for failing to oblige with their operational requirements. Although there are no judgments regarding Covid-19 vaccinations in the workplace, Bagraim cautioned that there would soon be legal challenges, according to the M&G report.