Can employers oblige employees to take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

12th January 2021

December 2020 we saw the light at the end of a long and very dark tunnel as the news of the approval of the vaccine a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine reached our shores. In the last few days the second vaccine made it to Malta too. The vaccine is firstly being offered to the front-line workers, the vulnerable and the older citizens. To date everyone is free to take this vaccine or not to take it and it seems that the Maltese government is not proposing the introduction of new legislation to make a COVID-19 vaccine compulsory for individuals.  Therefore what should employers do? Can it be imposed on employees to take the vaccine? I can  hear you ask can we create a policy or add a new contractual clause regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. Remember that contracts need mutual consent to be changed so this will be your first obstacle and also if you do make it a policy, in truth employees can refuse consent to a vaccine and there may be risks of discrimination claims or even constructive dismissal claims. Employees whether right or wrong may have their own concerns or are nervous to take the vaccine.

Remember employers have obligations to protect the health and safety of their workers as well as others that may be exposed to health and safety risks in the workplace. Therefore one thing which surely may be done is to encourage workers to take the vaccine. Educating them on this vaccine is key. It is also worth noting a survey carried out by Malta Today which states:

“… young people aged between 16 and 35 are the more sceptical, possibly a reflection of the casualness towards the pandemic among this age group. The survey shows that 74.5% of young people (18-35) will be taking the COVID-19 vaccine, 8.1% will not and 17.4% are unsure”. 

Also employees who are from certain demographic areas or even lower skilled employees may be more reluctant to take the vaccine.

If you missed the Malta Today survey you can find it here.

At the moment employers should keep doing their best and put control measures to avoid transmission at the work place. These include hygiene measures, social distancing, working from home if possible and regular testing of employees where applicable.

We are in the process of doing our bit in helping you educate your employees on the vaccine and we will be launching this initiative next week so stay tuned😊.