Balancing employer and individual rights around Covid-19 vaccinations

The first batch of the Covid-19 vaccines arrived in South Africa on the 1st of February and health care workers are set to receive these doses first. As expected, some of the health workers have reservations about taking the jab because the are afraid of the side effects (if any) and how it could affect them.

Some on the other hand are excited about the vaccines. The issue that then rises to the surface is whether those who are not keen on taking the vaccine can be compelled by their employers to take the jab.

In a report by eNCA, concerns on whether this whole issue will reshape our labour law have been raised. Experts have however said that the Occupational and Health Safety Act is the one which is most likely to be affected. Issues of whether an employee will be compelled to disclose to his next employer if they have been vaccinated or not also come to mind.

If compulsory workplace vaccination does come into effect, exceptions would have to be made in relation to those who will not be able to take the jab because of religious and cultural reasons or medical conditions. This could be a serious issue for those who work in places that are not well ventilated as compared to those who work in well ventilated places where the virus has less chances of spreading.

In countries like the United States of America it is mandatory to get the vaccine. At this stage in South Africa, the President has clearly said no one will be forced to take the vaccine if they do not want to.

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