[author: Ronald Mark C. Lleno]*
We asked our member firms around the globe to provide some insight on employer and employee rights when it comes to requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to return to work. Updated responses for the Philippines below.
Can an employer require compulsory vaccination? If yes, are there any exceptions or special circumstances that an employer must consider?
No, an employer may not require compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for its employees. The Philippine Government has launched an information drive on COVID-19 vaccination, highly encouraging the public to have themselves vaccinated, but making it clear that vaccination is not mandatory.
Can employees refuse to be vaccinated? How does an employer need to balance its obligation to provide a safe work environment with an employee’s rights?
Yes, employees may refuse to be vaccinated. Employers may exert efforts to educate their employees about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and consider subsidizing the cost of the vaccine to incentivize vaccination, but it may not require compulsory vaccination. Employers, however, are still required to provide a safe work environment by implementing strict COVID-19 prevention measures in the workplace, including practicing social distancing within the workplace, temperature checks, compulsory use of face masks, frequent sanitization, and adopting flexible work arrangements to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
In the event of a refusal, can an employee be dismissed for refusal to comply with the employer’s vaccination policy? Will the employee’s refusal constitute just cause for termination?
No, an employee may not be dismissed just for refusing to comply with the employer’s vaccination policy. The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment recently issued a labor advisory that any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits, or terminated from their employment. A “no vaccine, no work” policy shall not be allowed.
What benefits or accommodations do employers have to make for vaccinated employees?
None. In fact, while employers shall endeavor to encourage their employees to get vaccinated, employers shall not discriminate against employees who are not vaccinated. Thus, employers should be careful not to give special benefits or accommodations to employees who are vaccinated, which may be construed as discriminatory to employees who are not vaccinated.
Can vaccinated employees refuse to work in the same vicinity as employees who are not vaccinated?
No. In this regard, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment has yet to issue guidelines regarding the physical separation of vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees in the workplace. The existing responsibility for employers is to impose social distancing and wearing of masks in the workplace at all times, which imposition applies to all employees.
In your country, are employers required to provide paid leave for employees to get vaccinated?
No, employers are not required to provide paid leave for employees to get vaccinated.
*SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan