Following the news that employers in America can require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse, as outlined in guidelines issued by the US Federal Government, questions have been raised as to whether local employers can oblige workers to get the vaccine.
According to the Malta Employers Association Director General, Joseph Farrugia:
“As things stand today, employers cannot impose the vaccine on their employees. It will be up to the public health authorities to decide whether to have the vaccine mandatory or not.”
So far, Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, has said that the authorities do not intend on making the vaccine mandatory at a national level. Questions sent to the health authorities on Monday morning to clarify whether employers could impose on staff are awaiting a reply.
A spokesperson for Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister, Carmelo Abela, whose remit includes industrial and employment relations, confirmed that such a line of questioning would have to be directed to the health authorities.
The spokesperson also confirmed that the issue has not been raised at the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development, which counts employer and employee unions within its ranks, however it was stressed that those first in line must receive the vaccine first before further discussions can take place.
Frontline and healthcare workers, over-85-year-olds and staff at homes for the elderly will be among the first to receive the vaccine, which should begin to be rolled out locally from 27th December.
Roselyn Borg Knight, a lawyer specialising in employment law and a former candidate with the Nationalist Party, believes there are no legal provisions obliging workers to accept the obligation.
Speaking in her personal capacity, Dr Knight said that ultimately, it is in the interest of everyone for both employers and employees to cooperate and get vaccinated.
“We are in this together and good practice would dictate that employees and employers take a vaccine and test as needed.”
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