Pictures: Tony Clarke, Rebosa chairman, Jan le Roux, CEO of Rebosa
The Covid pandemic that has held the world ransom for more than a year is showing signs of abating, but still there are signs of the disease spreading and causing death, illness and hardships to millions of people.
At present there are numerous arguments for and against the vaccination drive by government and the principle of whether someone can be forced to be vaccinated against the virus.
According to Rebosa chairman, Tony Clarke, vaccination campaigns and vaccination in general are supported by the organisation.
“We believe that clients should be allowed to enquire whether the agent has been vaccinated and choose their agent accordingly. It is in the interest of both the employer and client that steps are taken to protect the health and safety of employees, co-workers and others who might be put in harms’ way at the workplace.
“This only means that, depending on the nature of the workplace, there might be certain circumstances in which individual rights are outweighed by the requirement to give effect to the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which requires employers to provide a safe work environment.”
Jan le Roux, Rebosa CEO, said,” We encourage employers to come up with reasonable resolutions so that all parties are accommodated should employees refuse Covid-19 vaccinations on medical and Constitutional grounds.
“We support the principle that employers and employees should treat each other with mutual respect. Essential considerations are public health imperatives, employees’ constitutional rights and efficient business operations. This should be in accordance with relevant stipulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993 and should consider the operational requirements of the workplace within which we as estate agents and principal agents operate.”
The government recently embarked on the Vooma Vaccination Weekends with the aim to mobilise citizens and people living in South Africa to get vaccinated to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The Vooma campaign is aimed at ensuring that 70 percent of the population is vaccinated by the end of December. More than 353 000 people heeded the call to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during the first Vooma Vaccination weekend.
According to the department of health there is overwhelming scientiﬁc evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections. This is a view of most of the countries worldwide and similar vaccination campaigns are run inmost.
Vaccines do not give a person the virus, rather it teaches the immune system to recognise and ﬁght the infection.
Some of the latest figures about the situation in South Africa is that there are 2,91 million cases reported with 88 346 deaths related to the pandemic. In total 18,016,455 were conducted, 2,912,938 positive cases were identified, there were 2,797,443 recoveries and 19,461,202 vaccines administered. It has been the government’s aim to vaccinate as many South Africans as possible to create a herd immunity which should contain the disease in a more natural way.
The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) issued a directive which expressly permits an employer to implement a mandatory vaccination policy subject to certain guidelines:
- The workplace plan must be amended to indicate whether the vaccinations will be made mandatory;
- which categories of employees are to be vaccinated;
- the way the company will adhere to the Department’s directive;
- measures to be taken to implement the programme when vaccines become available and allowing paid time off for employees to be vaccinated.
IMPLEMENTING THE POLICY
Before an employer implements such a policy, it must undertake a risk assessment within 21 days of the Directive being published, i.e., by 2 July 2021. This risk assessment must:
- take into consideration the employer’s operational requirements;
- indicate whether it intends to implement a mandatory vaccination policy;
- identify which employees it will require to be vaccinated based on the risk of acquiring Covid-19 at work, or the risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms due to the employee’s age or co-morbidities; and
- be conducted in accordance with section 8 and 9 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which places a duty on the employer to maintain a working environment for its employees and other persons that is safe and, as far as reasonably practicable, free from health risks.
Where an employer does implement a mandatory vaccination policy and an employee refuses to be vaccinated, the employer must ensure that the grounds for refusal are considered fully and that the employee is consulted in relation to the grounds raised. However, should the employer be unable to reasonably accommodate the employee and the employee continues to refuse to be vaccinated, an incapacity procedure must be followed before the employer may terminate the employee’s contract.
Read more about the labour relations implications of the vaccinations at: https://www.cliffedekkerhofmeyr.com/export/sites/cdh/en/practice-areas/downloads/An-Employers-Guide-to-Mandatory-Workplace-Vaccination-Policies.pdf