News, Regional News

SLEF warn against employers forcing COVID vaccine on employees

Published 11 March, 2021


Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source


Executive Director of Saint Lucia Employers Federation, Goretti Paul. (Photo: Contributed)

Employers are being warned against making it mandatory for employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which the Saint Lucia Employers Federations said could open the door to legal action.

Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the island and around the world, there seems to be some hope to many of a return to some form of normality, especially from employers.

The vaccine has been seen to provide a lifeline to businesses that rely on face-to-face customer service.

Several businesses around the island have been impacted in one way or the other as a result of employees contracting the virus and taking extensive sick days at the expense of the employer in some cases.

In the United States and other countries, employers are allowed to adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies. 

But can a company mandate its staff to be vaccinated in Saint Lucia?

According to the Executive Director of the Employers Federation Goretti Paul, while the US may be able to make it mandatory for persons to take their vaccine, here in Saint Lucia the Labour Act does not allow us to do that.

“So, we have to go based on what is existing. Right now, the choice to take the vaccine is a personal one,” Paul told Loop News.

The persons, who created the vaccine are not in a position to give us anything concrete on the vaccine, they are not making any commitments to us in terms of what the vaccine can and cannot do and so our position is that we are not going to encourage employers to make it mandatory for somebody to take a vaccine that we’re not sure how they’re going to respond to it,” Paul added.

She said an employer can provide information to the employees to let them know the pros and cons of taking a vaccine and help them understand the benefits if that is something that they are leaning towards. But she said for an employer to force the vaccine on its staff would be a violation.

“So, you cannot infringe on someone’s rights, and tell them what to put into their body,” Paul explained.

She continued: “The Labour Act speaks to the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment for everybody and the employers may argue well, I need my way of providing a safe working environment, ensuring that all of my employees are vaccinated, but we cannot get into infringing on people’s rights and dictating to them what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

So on that basis alone, we do not have the authority to be able to tell anybody, whether they should, take the vaccine or not.

But what if an employer forces employees to take the jab?

“Persons may very well develop side effects to the vaccine, and if you tell somebody that they must take the vaccine to work in your establishment and something goes wrong, something happens to them when they take that vaccine then you become liable because the employer is not going to sue the producers of the vaccine, they will sue the employer who told them that they needed to take it. That’s why we’re encouraging persons, not to make it mandatory because that can lead to some liability down the line.”

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