POLL | Should companies make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory?

Discovery CEO Adrian Gore says policy will not infringe on an employee’s legal, health and religious reasons for refusing to be vaccinated

03 September 2021 - 12:05
Discovery's Adrian Gore says the company will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees from next year. File photo
Discovery's Adrian Gore says the company will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees from next year. File photo
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Mandatory vaccination is in the spotlight after financial services firm Discovery Group announced on Thursday it is considering implementing a policy that will make it mandatory for employees to get jabbed against Covid-19.

CEO Adrian Gore said the policy will take effect from January 1 2022.

He cited the need to ensure a safe workplace as a reason for the implementation.

Gore said the policy will not violate the rights of employees who want to refuse the jab. 

“This process will consider the employee’s health, religious and other legal rights and seek to balance these with the rights of all employees across the group. We will do our very best to accommodate each employee as we recognise each case is different,” he said.

The announcement has been rejected by trade union Cosatu. On Thursday the union told SowetanLIVE mandatory vaccinations would be weaponised against employees who do not want to get vaccinated. 

Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said Cosatu would discuss the matter with the company owners. 

“We reject the idea because it is a weapon that will be used to discriminate against those who hold different beliefs from the mainstream. We prefer that dialogue is used and not coercion to convince workers and South Africans to vaccinate.

“We plan to engage them and hopefully it will not result in any head-on confrontation. All options are on the table if dialogue doesn’t work,” said Pamla. 

The department of employment and labour released a consolidated direction on occupational health and safety measures in June, which says employers should not coerce employees into vaccination.

“The key principle of these guidelines is that employers and employees should treat each other with mutual respect. A premium is placed on public health imperatives, the constitutional rights of employees and the efficient operation of the employer’s businesses,” said minister Thulas Nxesi.

Employers are required to ensure workplaces are safe and adhere to the Occupational Health Safety Act. 

“If the employer decides to make it mandatory once the risk assessment has been conducted, it must identify which employees will be required to be vaccinated.

“In determining whether an employee can be required to be vaccinated, the employer must identify those employees whose work poses a risk of transmission or risk of severe Covid-19 disease or death due to their age or comorbidities,” said Nxesi. 

In July, the Gauteng head of the SA Human Rights Commission Buang Jones called on South Africans who have been threatened with dismissal or eviction for refusing to get vaccinated to come forward. 

He said the commission had been inundated with complaints regarding mandatory vaccinations. He said the commission will explore the legalities around the issue.