With many companies looking to enforce vaccine mandates for employees from the beginning of next year, Ian McAlister, General Manager at CRS Technologies, examines several of the key issues surrounding this.
According to the Consolidated Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Direction gazetted by the Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi earlier this year, an employer must include a three-step inquiry in its risk assessment whether it intends to make vaccinations compulsory.
This must begin with an assessment that accounts for the operational requirements of the workplace. Fundamentally, an employer is responsible for providing a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees and persons other than those in its employment, who may be directly affected by its activities, and are not thereby exposed to hazards to their health or safety.
“If the employer decides to make it mandatory once the risk assessment has been conducted, it must then identify which of its employees will be required to be vaccinated. In determining whether an employee can be required to be vaccinated, the employer must identify those employees whose work poses a risk of transmission or a risk of severe COVID-19 disease or death due to their age or comorbidities,” says McAlister.
Having identified the employees who are required to be vaccinated, the company must amend its plan to include the measures to implement the vaccination of those employees.
Business for South Africa (B4SA), which is made up of Business Unity SA and the Black Business Council and was formed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, has, in principle, thrown its weight behind the introduction of vaccine mandates in SA. This is further evidenced by management consultant company McKinsey which states that employers are uniquely positioned to support COVID-19 vaccine adoption. Its research highlights several findings when it comes to the actions that a business can take.
“If an employer would increase the convenience and reduce the perceived cost of vaccination, then that would go a long way to convince employees to take the jab. So, even though the vaccination itself is provided free of charge, the worker must still pay for transport to get to the clinic, and potentially deal with any side effects that could see them requiring a day’s leave. The employer can therefore consider providing transport from the office to the nearest clinic and offer a ‘free’ day’s sick leave if required,” it says.
In fact, McKinsey notes that it is the latter that is the most influential action when it comes to vaccine motivation. Paid time off for vaccination and the recovery period post-vaccination corresponds to many people’s concerns about potential side-effects. Employees need assurance that they can take time to recover from any potential vaccine side-effects without incremental financial consequences.