COVID-19: What will happen to employees who refuse to get vaccinated?

An important question that has emerged since COVID-19 vaccination began is the question of whether employees will be subjected to a mandatory vaccination by their employers. A recent Pew Research survey shows that 39%  (which is approximately 4 out of 10) Americans are not ready to be vaccinated. However, if you are an employee, you may have to choose between losing your job or accepting to be vaccinated against your will. The pandemic has presented dramatic losses to corporate owners. Therefore, if Pfizer and BioNTech invented vaccine could improve the workplace safety and help restore things to near-normal condition, then there is a higher likelihood that many organizations will make vaccination a compulsory requirement for all their workers because the vaccine promises to restore some degree of normality.

Already, a number of companies are appealing for a move toward a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy as a prerequisite for all in-person works. Many healthcare professionals believe the requirement would improve workers’ health and safety. Additionally, some organizations feel that a compulsory inoculation requirement could supplement their business performance and give them a competitive advantage of their counterparts that will not make the process compulsory.

On the other hand, there are those who argue that forcing employees to get vaccinated would be unnecessary and a potential compromise to the freedom of choice. Those who agree to this school of thought call for the need to use incentives to encourage workers to submit themselves to be vaccinated. As an alternative to “forced” vaccination, employers may also require their workers to take a mandatory educational course relating to COVID-19 safety.

However, in some jurisdictions, it is legal for an employer to force their employees to get vaccinated. In the United States, for instance, private enterprises have extensive rights. Because the vaccination is a health and safety rule, an employer may exercise the right to make COVID-19 vaccination a mandatory requirement. So, what can employers do with workers who decline taking COVID-19 vaccine? What does OSHA say? Standard Number 1977.22 of the Discrimination against Employees under OSHA Act of 1970 states clearly that:

“Employees who refuse to comply with occupational safety and health standards or valid safety rules implemented by the employer in furtherance of the Act are not exercising any rights afforded by the Act. Disciplinary measures taken by employers solely in response to employee refusal to comply with appropriate safety rules and regulations, will not ordinarily be regarded as discriminatory action prohibited by section 11(c).”

OSHA

What does OSHA Act of 1970, therefore, imply? It authorizes employers to take disciplinary actions against employees who refuse to be vaccinated. So, if you are an employee, know that refusing to get vaccinated could mean losing your job. There are, however, a few exceptions. For instance, workers under a trade union may be excepted from a mandatory vaccination requirement by their employers if the employer fails to reach an agreement with the union regarding issues such as the vaccination criteria. The truth is that many workers especially within the private sector are not registered with any trade union. It is also possible that trade unions will approve a mandatory vaccination in an effort to improve safety and health at the workplace.  

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