April 16, 2021
LABOUR Director John Pinder said his department has received several complaints about "at least" three different businesses trying to implement a new policy that mandates workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Failure to comply could result in workers losing their jobs or being forced to pay for a weekly rapid antigen test at some establishments.
Yesterday, Mr Pinder said the policy is not legal and further advised employers against implementing such rules. He also urged businesses to show compassion towards their staff during these hard economic times.
He told The Tribune it’s a situation that was recently brought to the attention of labour officials. He said while hospitality businesses may advise workers to have a negative COVID test before coming to work, they do not have the right to force staff to get vaccinated.
“The competent authority has not made it mandatory for Bahamians to take vaccinations and while the minister of health and all the health officials would like to encourage Bahamians to do what is necessary to be safe through this thing to help us get through this pandemic, it is not mandatory and no employer has the right to force his or her employees to take the vaccine,” Mr Pinder told The Tribune.
“We have received complaints from employees from at least three different establishments in the tourism sector. It’s not legal for the employer to force the employee to get the vaccine.”
Mr Pinder also warned that employers who wrongfully terminate staff could find themselves in court should the affected party choose to take action.
“Any employee who is terminated for wrongful or unfair dismissal has the right to file a trade dispute at the Department of Labour and have us affiliated and having a favourable result can take it to the Industrial Tribunal,” he said.
“That is one of the main reasons right now why one of the directors of the National Tripartite Council is trying to get the government to agree to have the tribunal become a part of the Supreme Court so you could have more teeth in its ruling.
“So, if they could transfer the Industrial Tribunal to the civil side or the Supreme Court, when that (court) rules, that ruling will have much more power than the present state the tribunal finds itself in, so you see it’s already one particular employer (who) is already boasting about spending any amount of money to get this point across knowing full well to terminate an innocent employee they don’t have that type of money to fight them in court.’’
When contacted by this newspaper yesterday, former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands expressed disappointment over the position taken by some business owners, calling it “unfortunate.”
“That’s a slippery slope because I mean you are mandating that people take something that has not been approved (outside of emergency use),” Dr Sands said. “It’s for emergency use and we’re still trying to determine what the risk is and that’s an important conversation. But to tell somebody you gat to take this or you will lose your job.
“That’s a pretty strong position to take and I think it’s a very unfortunate position to take.”
For his part, noted attorney Wayne Munroe said companies must ensure that they have sought the proper legal advice before implementing such rules as it could become quite “problematic.”
He said mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for staff has several implications that could potentially create issues for employers in the future.
“The whole aspect of mandatory vaccinations of any substance that’s approved for emergency use and not final use will be problematic,” Mr Munroe told this newspaper. “If an employer mandates vaccination of his or her employees with drug or mandates the taking of any drug and it then causes harm to the employee, in my considered opinion, an employee would have a case against the employer for that personal injury.
“So you know they say they’re studying whether this vaccine causes blood clots and in one case death, so let’s say you mandate your employees to take the vaccine. The vaccine maker isn’t responsible but you the employer would be responsible because you forced the employee.”
He added: “The other aspect is this vaccine doesn’t guarantee against infection by requiring people to be tested.
“You are implying that if you are vaccinated, you are safe and you are not safe because you could be infected still and infect others.
“So, if a person gets infected and infects others in your workplace, then surely you should be liable again.
“There’s also the issue of people who have a religious conscientious belief about vaccination.
“If you discriminate against them, you can as a private individual, but the government cannot do business with private individuals who are discriminating,” Mr Munroe said.
Yesterday, Mr Pinder issued a plea for employers to show compassion to furloughed workers who have suffered enough because of the pandemic.
He said: “This is a very stressful time and there’s no need to add additional stress on those who are waiting to come to work to say they must receive their vaccination even though they might not be comfortable receiving it bearing in mind, the minister of health, the health authorities and I daresay the competent authority, is saying you do not have to take this, it is not mandatory.”
“Therefore, it is important for those employees to have a negative test upon arriving back in the workplace and I would really like to make a plea to the employers that please, put a system in place so that your employees who have not gotten a vaccination get a free (COVID test) or at-least meet them halfway.”
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News date : 04/16/2021
Category : Business, Tribune Stories