Davies Ndumiso Sibanda , Labour matters
WHILE the law gives workers a choice to be or not to be vaccinated, the dilemma presented by the world of work is that refusal to be vaccinated changes the workplace environment and the way one is treated at work. Most of the employers spoken to feel that it is unreasonable for a worker to refuse to be vaccinated despite the fact that they admit it is not compulsory.
They argue that their primary duty is to protect the business and shareholder value.
They also argue that workers who are not vaccinated are a high risk compared to the vaccinated.
One employer said he could not send an unvaccinated employee on a business trip because if he catches Covid-19, his chances of dying are higher than the vaccinated and the cost of repatriating the remains or managing a sick employee away from base could be prohibitive.
Further, employers say some of their clients have openly told them that they cannot accommodate unvaccinated workers in their guest houses. That automatically means unvaccinated employees are of less value to the employer if their work involves visiting clients.
Some have argued that they would retrench for incapacity as the employee hired to service the client will have lost the capacity to do so.
With many organisations now having all their employees vaccinated except those who have not for medical reasons, the space for unvaccinated employees is getting smaller as employers use underhand tactics to exclude the employees from work and force them to be vaccinated or resign. Some of the tactics include, exclusion from staff bus, being forced to work from home, paying incentives only to those who are physically at work, giving subordinates their core assignments, getting subordinates to leapfrog them on promotion, being excluded from key meetings and many others.
All these border on victimisation but is not easy for a worker to successfully put in a discrimination or victimisation case. On the other hand, rejection of unvaccinated employees has not only come from employers but has also come from vaccinated employees.
I recall reading Works Council minutes of one organisation where Workers Committee members were complaining that unvaccinated colleagues are a risk to their bonus as previous experience had shown that once you become a contact to a colleague with Covid-19, you are also put in quarantine, and in this instance, an unvaccinated employee had tested positive and was very sick and when the rest of his shift mates were tested, some turned out positive but had mild symptoms of the disease.
What made the workers unhappy was that the whole shift was made to quarantine and when the attendance bonus was paid, they lost out on 14 days.
There are many similar cases where employers and workers have come together against unvaccinated colleagues and in worse cases, the employees will feel ostracised, which is also not good for workplace relationships going forward. In conclusion, it is an individual’s choice to decide whether or not to be vaccinated.
However, if not vaccinated, the employee’s life at work is unlikely to be rosy as he will be victimised but find it very difficult to raise a case of unfair dismissal or victimisation.
Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on:
Email: [email protected]