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SAHRC inundated with complaints about mandatory Covid-19 jab at work

14 July 2022 - 12:35
The SA Human Rights Commission says it received many complaints from employees who were forced by their employers to vaccinate against Covid-19. File photo.
The SA Human Rights Commission says it received many complaints from employees who were forced by their employers to vaccinate against Covid-19. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it was inundated with complaints from employees opposed to their employers' insistence on mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.

According to the commission's 2020/2021 trends analysis report, the Gauteng office in particular received many formal complaints from employees.

The complicated issue of the right to freedom of choice and the right to an environment not harmful to one's health and wellbeing continues to dominate public discourse, it said.

“At the time of writing this report, the matter was still under intense public debate and referral to the courts for jurisprudence was to be taken under consideration.”

The commission started receiving complaints after new directives were issued on Covid-19 occupational health and safety measures in the workplace by employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi.

“The direction, which in the interest of public health imperatives, ostensibly gave employers autonomous discretion to enforce mandatory vaccination for vulnerable employees. However, without promulgated legislative policy clearly delineating a law of general application, the direction left much for interpretation.

“What then ensued were multiple reports of employees being dismissed from work for refusing to get vaccinated. Others were placed on suspension or disciplinary procedures for not having adequate justification for refusal to vaccinate.”

The direction determined that employers had the discretion to conduct a risk assessment and provide justification for policy on mandatory vaccination taking into account the operational requirements of the workplace.

The commission said though it had recorded a slight reduction in complaints received compared to previous years, the complaint trends for 2020/2021 indicate the need for its protection of human rights.

“On average, the commission has recorded a total of 499 complaints relating to ESR [economic and social rights] on a yearly basis, with the year under review indicating the highest number of complaints over a nine-year period. The commission is acutely concerned that ESR-related complaints have remained at the top five human rights violations with minimal indication of urgent state intervention.”

The SAHRC said the treatment of foreigners was also a concern as xenophobic and Afrophobic attacks were reported in several parts of the country.

“Sentiments which blamed immigrants for the inaccessibility to services and employment during the pandemic led to the eruption of violence in various areas within Gauteng, which year after year is a hotspot for xenophobic incidents.

“The commission remains committed to protecting the rights and vulnerabilities of immigrants and through its sphere of influence will continue to rebuke the unfair treatment of foreign nationals.”

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