Understanding the vaccine rollout from a business perspective
The South African vaccine rollout has been expanded to include people over 50 years old. Nicol Myburgh, Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, discusses the obligations of companies when it comes to the vaccination, including providing days off for employees who need to get the jab and who may require sick leave if they experience any side effects.
The Government Gazette No. 47700 published on 11 June provides a consolidated direction on occupational health and safety (OHS) measures in the workplace. It details reasonable solutions for employers that accommodate all parties should an employee(s) refuse to be vaccinated for medical or constitutional grounds. In addition, it gives an employer 21 days to decide on whether it intends to make vaccination mandatory, factoring in the operational requirements of the workplace.
As part of this OHS direction, employers are required to account for whether they intend to make vaccinations compulsory as part of their risk assessments. This is a three-step process.
- Step 1: The employer must make an assessment considering the operational requirements of the workplace. Although the direction does not make the vaccine mandatory, the employer must provide a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees and any persons exposed.
- Step 2: If the employer decides to make vaccinations mandatory, it must then identify those employees whose work poses a risk of transmission or risk of severe Covid-19 disease or death because of their age or medical condition of two coexisting diseases.
- Step 3: Employers are required to amend their plan to include the measures to implement the vaccination of those employees as and when Covid-19 vaccines become available. The employer may only make it an obligation once the employee becomes eligible and registered for vaccination.
Risk assessments also need to include input from the relevant trade unions and safety committees, and must be made available to health inspectors upon request.
Deal responsibly with the vaccine rollout
“If vaccinations are identified to be mandatory at the organisation, the employer must provide transport to the vaccination site for the employee and is required to give the employee paid time off to recover from any side effects following the vaccination,” says Myburgh.
Furthermore, an employer is not permitted to make any deduction from an employee’s remuneration or require an employee to make any payment to the employer in respect of anything which the employer is obliged to provide the employee under the direction.
“Should an employee refuse to be vaccinated on constitutional or medical grounds, the employer must reasonably accommodate the employee by allowing them to seek guidance and provide a medical evaluation. These OHS measures are designed to provide a clear framework for organisations to deal responsibly with the vaccine rollout and ensure their employees are treated fairly throughout the process,” says Myburgh.