- Employees who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine could be at risk of losing their jobs over that decision
- According to legal experts, employers may have legal standing to dismiss people who refuse to get the Covid-19 in order to maintain a safe working environment
- The Congress of South African Trade Unions believes that under the Labour Relations Act, employers cannot fire individuals who refuse to get vaccinated
While getting the coronavirus vaccine is not a legal obligation in South Africa, employees need to be aware that there could be implications, such as the possibility of losing their jobs, should they choose not to get vaccinated.
A previous agreement taken at the National Economic Development and Labour Council between government and companies stated that refusal to get the coronavirus vaccine was not grounds to dismiss employees, however, this agreement has been revised.
Employers can rely on the new guidelines stipulated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act if employees refuse to get the Covid-19 jab. Business for South Africa has highlighted that under the new guidelines, companies are not prohibited from dismissing employees who refuse to get vaccinated.
Public health lawyer Safura Abdool Karim stated that under the Act, companies are mandated to create a safe working environment for their employees, and a safe working environment could mean mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations, according to a report by The Citizen.
“Part of that can include mandatory Covid vaccination for employees,” said Karim.
Karim added that companies do have legal standing if they choose to dismiss employees who refuse to get vaccinated. Employers are however advised to seek legal advice before dismissing employees.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says employers do not have the right to fire employees who choose to not get vaccinated. The labour organisation says that they will rely on the Labour Relations Act as well as the Constitution to defend employees.
Sizwe Pamla, Cosatu national spokesperson, says there's no ministerial directive that mandates employees get vaccinated.
“The ministerial direction is specific that no worker can be forced to vaccinate or be dismissed for refusing a vaccine," said Pamla.
Companies may consider firing employees who are high-risk individuals and also refuse to get vaccinated only if the type of employment cannot make alternative work arrangements for such an employee, according to Business Insider.
SA urged to digitalise Covid-19 vaccination certificates for international travel
Briefly News previously reported that the European Union (EU) recently launched a Digital Green Certificate, which is used to confirm that a person wishing to travel has been vaccinated, providing them with eased travel restrictions.
The digitisation of Covid-19 vaccine and testing certificates is seen as the next logical step for South Africa in order to make travelling more feasible.
The careful relaunching of international travel is based on a foundation of new rules. South Africans who have been fully vaccinated with region-approved doses have been given permission to enter into specific countries in Europe without the need to quarantine.
Popo Maja, the national department of health’s spokesperson, spoke to BusinesInsiderSA stating that the digitisation task had been given to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco). However, Dirco states that they have not been given this task.
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