On 11 June 2021, the Government published an amended Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces (the “Direction”). Of particular significance in the Direction is the inclusion of guidelines (the “Guidelines”) concerning the possible imposition of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies.
The Direction provides that employers must, on the basis of a risk assessment, develop a plan outlining measures related to the vaccination of its employees. If vaccination is mandatory in terms of such a plan (subject to any collective agreement between employers, their employer organisations and trade unions), employers should notify employees who by virtue of the risk of transmission through their work or their risk for severe symptoms/death due to their age or comorbidities of their obligation to be vaccinated when this is available to the employee.
Notwithstanding these provisions, it is important to note that a mandatory vaccination policy cannot be enforced without exception. The guidelines critically acknowledge the constitutional and medical grounds upon which an employee may refuse to be vaccinated. From a constitutional perspective, these grounds are the right to bodily integrity and the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion. Medically, a vaccination may be refused if the relevant employee has any allergy to a previous dose or component of a vaccine.
For more information, the full text of the direction can be accessed at https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202106/44700reg11292gon499.pdf
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