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Explainer: COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace

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As South Africa  gears up to vaccinate more citizens against Covid-19, there are growing concerns about whether employers can force their employees to take the vaccine.

Businesses are gearing up to administer vaccines to their employees after the labour department reached an agreement at Nedlac to use workplaces in the phased vaccine rollout, says employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi.

Here are six important questions answered:

Can my employer force me to take the vaccine?

The amended Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the Workplace Direction states that while employees can refuse on constitutional grounds to get the vaccine. Employers can make vaccination mandatory on grounds that they want to offer a safe working environment, but need to follow these steps.

Employers can identify employees at risk of transmission or exposure to Covid-19 based on their age and underlying conditions.

On what grounds can employees refuse the jab?

Employees can decline to get vaccinated on grounds of bodily integrity in terms of section 12(2) and the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion cited in section 13 of the constitution. Medical reasons refer to an immediate allergic reaction to a dose of the vaccine.

Can employees get fired for refusing the vaccine?

Business4SA says the amended directive does not prohibit employers from dismissing workers who refuse the vaccine, but legal advice needs to be taken “given the complexities of such a dismissal”.

Taking the Covid-19 vaccine is not compulsory but citizens who are eligible are encouraged to do so.

Nxesi said companies should find “a reasonable resolution” that accommodates all parties when employees refuse to be vaccinated on medical or constitutional grounds.

How can employers ensure the safety of employees?

Employers must require employees to disclose when they are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or when they have tested positive. Employers are also required to explain the nature of the vaccine administered.

Do employees get paid for missing workdays to get vaccinated?

Employees are entitled to paid time off to get the Covid-19 vaccine but employers may require proof of the vaccination appointment.

Source: TimesLIVE


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