Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi urges employers to follow new health and safety protocols

14 June 2021

Johannesburg – Employers should find a reasonable resolution that accommodates all parties where employees refuse to be vaccinated for medical and constitutional grounds, says Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

The Minister made the call in a new consolidated direction on occupational health and safety measures in certain workplaces. The measures are contained in a direction he recently gazetted.

A key principle of the 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 business,” the guidelines stipulate.

The department on Monday said constitutional grounds include the right to bodily integrity in section 12(2) and the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion in section 13 of the Constitution. Medical grounds refer to issues of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose or a known (diagnosed) allergy to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Consolidated OHS Direction now requires an employer to include in its risk assessment whether it intends to make vaccinations compulsory.

This is a three-step enquiry.

“Firstly, the employer must make that assessment taking into account the operational requirements of the workplace.

“This means that the Direction does not make the vaccinations mandatory, but every employer must take into account its general duties under the Occupational Health Safety Act, 85 of 1993 to provide a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees and persons other than those in their employment,” the guidelines read.

Secondly, if the employer decides to make it mandatory once the risk assessment has been conducted, it must then identify which of its 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 a risk of severe COVID-19 disease or death due to their age or comorbidities.

“In other words, not every employee poses such a risk, for example, workers who work from home or whose work is such that they do not come into close working contact with other workers or the public.”

Source: Sundayworld at