A prominent attorney says employers are well within their rights to dismiss workers who, for medical reasons or otherwise, refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop said they can take such action to protect their businesses and comply with laws governing safety and health in the workplace.
“Based on the Factories Act and Safety and Health at Work Act, along with other legislation, the employer has an obligation to provide a safe system at work,” Gollop said on the Down to Brass Tacks call-in radio programme today. “Now, in the case of this pandemic, where a worker may decide he does not want to get vaccinated, we will have a situation where individual rights give way to group rights. That is, if someone does not want to get vaccinated, that is his business, but if the employer feels that that person’s decision not to get vaccinated may put the rest of his staff in jeopardy, he has to take the rights of the group (the rest of the staff) into consideration, as well as his obligation to provide a safe work environment.”
He continued: “Also, if it can be shown that an unvaccinated person caused the pandemic to affect the institution, thereby causing people to suffer, it is a private law situation. So, if other staff members were affected by the employee who refused to get vaccinated and the employer allowed them into the workplace, then the employer would have compromised his obligation to provide a safe space and would be liable to all those who got infected.”
Gollop said dismissal would be legal even in a case where a worker stated they could not get vaccinated for medical reasons.
“Employment is voluntary. I hire you to satisfy my standard of work, and if you are unvaccinated and you pose a risk to the entire business, then I will be unable to satisfy my obligations. An employer has to cover all his bases in order to rule out being accused of negligence,” he said.
The senior lawyer said in a situation where an employee had been with a company for a long time and was a valued staff member, “the employer still has the right to insist on vaccination, and the two parties will work out any settlements in terms of severance and so on”.
“Also, if the company insists that its workers take the vaccination, and one of them either becomes seriously ill or dies, then that comes down to medical negligence and the family members would have to address that with either the doctors or the hospital – for example, if any pre-existing medical conditions were not considered before administering the vaccine,” Gollop added. (DH)