New directive ends mandatory workplace vaccination policy debate


Aadil Patel | National Practice Head & Director | Employment Practice | Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr | mail me

On Friday, 11 June 2021, the Department of Employment and Labour issued an updated Occupational Health and Safety Directive which, among other things, expressly permits an employer to implement a mandatory workplace vaccination policy subject to specific guidelines.

Whether employers can or can’t force employees to have the COVID-19 vaccination has been widely debated.

While this latest directive clarifies the matter, it cautions employers that when implementing a mandatory workplace vaccination policy, the rights of employees to bodily integrity and religious freedoms and beliefs must be taken into account.

The directive does not apply to a workplace that is excluded in terms of section 1(3) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, which includes mines, mining areas or works as defined in the Minerals Act 50 of 1991, as well as ships, boats or cranes as defined in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951.

Highlights from the document include:

  • Timeline – what do employers need to do by when? Within 21 days of the Directive coming into force employers must amend their workplace plan to include certain aspects.
  • Consultation with trade unions – what engagement needs to happen with trade unions
  • Employee education – what steps need to be taken to create awareness
  • Creating your vaccination policy – what essentials does a mandatory vaccination policy need to include
  • Dealing with refusals to be vaccinated – Where an employee refuses to be vaccinated on medical or constitutional grounds, what should an employer do?

We have developed detailed guidelines for employers regarding the new directive and creating a vaccination policy.

Please click here to view a our detailed guidelines.



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