Directive on mandatory COVID vaccinations in South Africa ‘won’t be easy’

Discovery has taken the decision to enforce a policy compelling staff to vaccinate or have a solid reason not to.

The Western Cape Department of Health's new mass vaccination centre, the Athlone Vaccination Centre of Hope. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Labour experts and trade unionists said on Friday that a legal test case for mandatory vaccination in South Africa could be good and bad for the country.

READ: Discovery's decision to enforce mandatory COVID vaccination descried as bold

Medical aid scheme and financial services provider Discovery has taken the decision to enforce a policy compelling staff to vaccinate or have a solid reason not to.

Labour market participants said getting to a clear directive on how the issue should be broached would not be easy.

In recent headlines, French citizens protested mandatory COVID-19 vaccination certificates while other workers took employers to court for dismissing them for not vaccinating. But these had been far from home.

Now, with Discovery’s announcement labour market players voiced concerns about the possible implications.

They all agree, though, that a legal test case will not offer the clarity expected.

Labour law expert Tony Healy said, “There are thousands and thousands of jobs and vocations and thousands of different work environments and what might be justifiable and reasonable in a particular job type in a particular working environment may be different for people with the same job title in a different work environment.”

The Employment and Labour Department stated in a June directive that key principles of the guidelines on the workplace and vaccination was that employers and employees should treat each other with mutual respect.

They emphasised that a premium was placed on public health imperatives, the constitutional rights of employees and efficient operation of business.

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