NEWSFLASH | Workplace vaccination policies: Constitutional rights infringement or occupational health and safety requirement?

The updated Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Directive issued on 11 June 2021, specifically relevant to the impact of  COVID-19 on the workplace states that employers may issue mandatory workplace vaccination policies. The Directive urges employers, when choosing to adopt a plan which obliges identified employees to get the vaccination, to take into account the employees’ constitutional rights. These are, for example, that the employee may refuse to take the vaccination based on their rights to bodily integrity, the right to freedom of religion, and the like.

Should an employee refuse to be vaccinated based on these grounds, the employer has to accommodate that employee as far as possible, for example, by counselling and/or accommodating them in a position that would not “require the employee to be vaccinated”.

Far from empowering employers to support initiatives to drive vaccinations, the regulations merely empower employers to draft policies relating to vaccination, which they cannot really enforce.

Contact James Foxcroft (jamesf@stbb.co.za) in our Labour Law Department for assistance with employee enquiries in this regard.