If an employee does not want to be vaccinated, companies are entitled to demand negative Covid-19 tests from them on a regular basis, says Business Unity South Africa (Busa) chief executive Cas Coovadia.
Speaking to radio station CapeTalk, Coovadia said that these options are detailed in the Department of Employment and Labour’s directive on vaccination in the workplace, which was published in June 2021.
“The directive does give employers the wherewithal to insist that their staff do vaccinate and if they do not vaccinate, it is their choice. And if they don’t want to vaccinate, then they have got to demonstrate that they do not have Covid-19. This is to protect the workplace and those workers in the workplace that choose to vaccinate,” he said.
“We appeal to employers to apply those directives in a way that does ensure that people are given the proper choices and proper decisions.”
Coovadia said Busa would be pursuing a declaratory order from the country’s courts on Covid-19 mandatory vaccinations, amid ongoing debate and disputes over the matter.
This will provide legal certainty and help put an end to the confusion in the business sector, he said.
South African Breweries (SAB) is the latest major company to consider the introduction of a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy for staff in South Africa, however, it almost certainly won’t be the last as the issue is expected to be discussed in boardrooms and the courts in the coming months.
In a statement on 4 January, SAB said that it will begin a consultation process this month, with a final decision on mandatory vaccines to be made in ‘due course’.
“As a pro-vaccination company, we aim to safeguard our employees in the workplace and aid the country in its drive to overcome the pandemic and recover the economy,” it said.
As the work year begins in earnest in the coming weeks, more companies are expected to follow suit as they encourage workers to return to the office and get vaccinated.
Some of the companies that have already introduced vaccine mandates in South Africa include:
- BIG Concerts
- ENS Africa
- Life Healthcare
- Old Mutual
- Right to Care
- Standard Bank
South Africa’s Constitutional Court is set to be one of the critical decision-makers around introducing mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa, with several groups announcing plans this week to approach the country’s apex court for clarity.
Partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) also expected to approach South Africa’s apex court for clarity around vaccine mandates in the coming weeks.
Addressing a Nedlac meeting on 7 December, Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that the group is expected to approach the Constitutional Court for a legal declarator on vaccine mandates in 2022.
Nedlac has recommended that mandatory vaccinations be implemented in workplaces, while specific venues would only be accessible to those vaccinated. Gatherings, events and the hospitality sector are all expected to introduce mandates.
“The social partners have agreed that to promote vaccination and protect the country from lockdown, workplaces should require employees to be vaccinated to enable occupational health and safety and that access should be restricted to certain venues and gatherings only to vaccinated persons,” said Nedlac executive director Lisa Seftel.