Source | www.peoplematters.in | Vikram Shroff | Sayantani Saha
If 2020 is the year of COVID-19, 2021 is likely to be the year of the COVID-19 vaccination. The law on COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace is still undeveloped. Infact, in most countries, it is too soon for statutory mandates or case law precedent yet. COVID-19 vaccines have been in the news constantly, and employment lawyers world over have already started advising their clients about the workplace ramifications.
The Indian government has recently approved vaccines from Bharat Biotech and Oxford / AstraZeneca. Indian states including Delhi and Maharashtra have started preparation for vaccination, with the firm shots to be given very soon. Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released certain FAQs on COVID-19 vaccines on 17th December 2020, which confirm that vaccination for COVID-19 will be voluntary. The Ministry goes on to advise to “receive the complete schedule of COVID-19 vaccine for protecting one-self against this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to the close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers.”
Elsewhere, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved on 21st December, 2020, a week ahead of schedule, the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNtech, although the journey of COVID-19 vaccination is still at a nascent stage in many parts of the world in terms of general vaccination timelines. European countries like France and Germany are expecting a first delivery of the vaccine soon. Meanwhile, in the US, over one million people have already been vaccinated and the number is being tracked on a daily basis just like the Covid cases. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the US has issued guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccines and the interaction with disability and EEO laws. The EEOC has acknowledged that employers may mandate vaccinations, but they need to ensure that their policies and procedures do not implicate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
HR managers are keenly awaiting the vaccine and tracking the developments closely, as the COVID-19 pandemic in India eases and as vaccines will soon become available, since they need to prepare for gradual re-opening of offices in 2021. Keeping in mind the employer’s duty of care obligations, employers will have a keen interest in allowing only vaccinated employees and visitors into the office premises, hoping that the vaccination will keep the individuals in the workplace as safe as possible.