Cosatu warns that employers don't have right to fire unvaccinated employees

The trade union federation said that there were other avenues available to employers instead of going the extreme route of sacking unvaccinated employees.

An education department employee gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Rabasotho community hall in Tembisa on 23 June 2021. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Cosatu said that although it was encouraging all workers to get vaccinated, it also warned that employers did not have the right to fire anyone who refused to get the jab.

The trade union federation said that there were other avenues available to employers instead of going the extreme route of sacking unvaccinated employees.

Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said that to accommodate legitimate reasons for refusal, employers should try to minimise contact with other workers.

"You can accommodate and work outside of ordinary hours, so you can allow that individual to continue to work with an N95 mask now. Otherwise, why are we reopening and saying workers can go back to work," Pamla said.

Meanwhile, labour consultant, Tony Healy, said that employers actually did have a leg to stand on when it came to making vaccines mandatory.

"Where there's a high risk of infection and transmission, that employer would absolutely be entitled to make vaccination compulsory. They would of course still need to go to great lengths to see whether this employee could be accommodated elsewhere but ultimately if they refuse and if the employer can justify the mandatory policy in their environment, then that employee will be entitled to be dismissed and there will no doubt be many test cases on this.

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