The government is discussing the possibility of making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for public servants if the current voluntary uptake does not improve.
Public service and administration director-general Yoliswa Makhasi informed her colleagues that various national and provincial departments have approached her department.
They want the way forward and update on the progress in implementing the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) direction on measures to address, prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19 in workplaces issued by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi in June this year permitting mandatory workplace vaccination policies subject to specific conditions.
”Discussions are ongoing with stakeholders and organised labour to consider the introduction of a mandatory vaccine mandate, along with the parameters of the OHS direction in case voluntary uptake does not increase to an acceptable level as set by the Department of Health,” Makhasi wrote on Wednesday.
She promised departments that they would be informed about developments on a continuous basis and encouraged department heads to constantly engage staff, organised labour and other stakeholders to promote uptake of vaccines.
Last month, Cosatu warned that mandatory vaccination will not work and may distract on the work needed to urge every person to be vaccinated while one of its biggest affiliates, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), supports making Covid-19 vaccines mandatory.
”The national executive committee committed to continue to encourage all members of society including learners to get vaccinated so that we can reach the required level of protection projected by scientists to be 80% of the population. We need to defeat anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists with accurate information that can be accessible to all,” Sadtu said.
The direction on the measures states that if an employer decides that vaccination is mandatory it must undertake a risk assessment to identify employees who by virtue of the risk of transmission through their work or their risk for severe Covid-19 disease or death due to their age or comorbidities that must be vaccinated.
Its mandatory vaccination plan must also comply with any applicable collective agreement and that every employee should be notified of the obligation to be vaccinated, their right to refuse to be vaccinated on constitutional or medical grounds and be given an opportunity to consult a health and safety or workers representative or trade union official.
Should an employee refuse to be vaccinated the employer is required, if necessary, to take reasonable steps to accommodate the worker in a position that does not require the employee to be vaccinated.
Employees must be given administrative support to assist them to register on the electronic vaccine data registration portal.
The direction also makes provision for employees to be given paid time off to be vaccinated as long as proof is provided and additional paid time off to recover if an employee experiences side effects or lodge a claim for compensation in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.