Employers granted permission to seek proof of Covid-19 vax

Department of Employment and Labour updates rules around managing Covid-19 in the workplace.

The Code of Practice for Managing Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the Workplace 2022 was recently gazetted by Labour and Employment Minister Thula Nxesi.

The new code has been laid out to guide employers on measures that need to be taken in the workplace to contain Covid-19 infections once the National State of Disaster ends.

It takes the rights and obligations of employers and employees set out in a set of rules that were brought into effect in terms of regulations to the Disaster Act and makes them rights and obligations under the Labour Relations Act instead. The codes reiterate employers’ obligations to their employees and all persons who may be affected by their activities.

Employers to determine vaccine status of all workers
The code states that all South African employers must take measures to determine the vaccination status of their workers.

Every employer must conduct a risk assessment to determine the risk of exposure and the control measures to limit infection, transmission and mitigate the risk of serious illness or death of employees and other persons who may be directly affected by the workplace activities.

Further, the rules say that employers must permit employees, at their request, to consult a health and safety or worker representative or a trade union official and give administrative support to the employees to register and to access their Covid-19 vaccination certificates.

Employees need to show exemption
The new codes confirm that an employee may refuse to get vaccinated if they can produce a medical certificate showing it is contraindicated, but the employer may refer the employee for a confirmatory medical evaluation at the employer’s expense.

If the employer accepts the medical certificate or the employee is referred to medical evaluation and that evaluation confirms that the employee has contra-indications for vaccination, it must accommodate the employee in a position that does not require the employee to be vaccinated,

The department has indicated that in due course, the minister will issue occupational health and safety regulations to supplement the code.