Owing to the latest guidelines provided by the Department of Employment and Labour, which stipulates that Covid-19 vaccinations can be made mandatory by employers, companies would need to update their policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with the guidelines, which correspond with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The guidelines state that, based on the risks of Covid-19 for certified instructional trainers and the workplace, employers should consider a possible mandatory policy, based on its risk assessments, explains KBC risk solutions GM Louise Woodburn.
“What this means is that employers need to understand their environments and ensure that they are looking at the policies and procedures, and what they’ve documented. In addition, conducting risk assessments enables them to understand the potential risks that their employees could be exposed to.”
It is recommended that companies perform risk assessments to determine which employees are required to be vaccinated before returning to work, Woodburn highlights.
Moreover, she points out that it is important for companies to partner with qualified health and safety partners who are informed of the constant changes to the legislation, and to ensure that risk assessments are done in accordance with the latest amendments to legislation.
When conducting a risk assessment, the company determines the overall process or method of the tasks that are done on a daily basis. The company then identifies the risks and hazards that could potentially cause harm to employees.
Further, implementing such a vaccine policy has raised the issue of whether these policies are infringing on an individual’s right, should he or she refuse to be vaccinated.
In cases where employees refuse to be vaccinated for medical or constitutional reasons, Woodburn says a company has to have a clear and concise policy on how it will manage those cases.
Employers can implement a mandatory vaccine policy only once they have a reasonable resolution that accommodates all parties.
Companies need to engage with employees and trade unions to ensure that awareness is created on why there are vaccines, why companies want to have such policies in place and what the benefits are of being vaccinated.
“Once companies have clear policies based on the engagement [they] have to be consistent in applying those policies. “This will assist in employees not feeling as if their rights are being violated because of the engagement. “The most important factor is to create awareness.”
It is important to note that health and safety is a collaboration between management and employees, and finding a solution that works for everyone. Health and safety has a major impact on an individual’s personal, moral and financial perspective; it also has an impact on the company, Woodburn concludes.