Other countries’ anti-epidemic measures
Let’s now briefly look at some of the employment related measures imposed by other countries on how they grapple with the pandemic.
Currently, only regulated care homes can legally require workers to get vaccinated. However, from 1 April 2022, regulated providers in the health and social care sector will also be able to legally require workers who have direct contact with patients to take a vaccination, subject to certain exceptions and medical exemptions. As vaccination is now mandatory for workers in care homes, employers in the care home sector may have a potentially fair reason to dismiss an unvaccinated worker.
An employer is responsible by law for providing a safe and healthy working environment, including the health and safety of employees. An employer must regularly follow up and assess employees’ working environment to mitigate risk factors. This may include mandating requirements for employees to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the workplace where it is lawful and reasonable to do so. Adequate actions need to be taken to safeguard individuals from infection at the workplace.
Currently, there is no specific power for employers to demand mandatory vaccination. For unvaccinated employees, an employer may permit them to work remotely if the employer assesses that such working arrangements sufficiently meet their operational or business needs. However, as the vast majority of vaccinated employees eventually return to the workplace more frequently, the prolonged absence of the unvaccinated employees from the workplace may affect their individual performance as well as negatively impact team or organisational performance.
From 15 January 2022, for employees whose jobs require on-site working as determined by the employer and have not yet got vaccinated, the employer may:
- redeploy them to suitable jobs which may be carried out remotely if such jobs are available, with remuneration commensurate with the responsibilities of the alternative jobs;
- place them on unpaid leave based on mutually agreeable terms. By not attending the workplace, unvaccinated employees are protected from being exposed to the threat of the COVID-19 virus; or
- as a last resort, after exploring options above, terminate their employments (with notice) in accordance with the employment contracts. If the termination is due to the employee’s inability to attend the workplace to perform his/her contracted work, such termination will not be considered as wrongful dismissal.