21 Oct 2021

Mandatory vaccination policy

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Employment |

The country moved to lockdown Level 1 on 1 October 2021 and the Covid-19 landscape both in South Africa and worldwide have changed considerably in the past three months. Significantly, international travel restrictions have eased with countries such as Australia - who had notoriously tough travel restrictions in place – preparing to open their borders in November 2021.  The implementation of a vaccination program has allowed South Africans to contemplate a life closer to what they experienced pre-March 2020. However, not everyone has been convinced that vaccination against Covid-19 is an option that they wish to consider.  There could be any number of reasons for vaccine hesitancy, however, in a “post-lockdown” world, a refusal to be vaccinated may have repercussions for the individual concerned.

Increasingly companies, institutions of all types, and employers have decided to investigate and implement the option of a “mandatory vaccination policy”, meaning that people who wish to work there, attend those premises, or utilise those amenities will need to show proof of vaccination (unless circumstances which allow for deviation from that policy exist). This is an increasingly fraught topic in South Africa where the balancing of the constitutional rights of individuals against public health concerns may necessitate a restriction of an individual’s freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated or not.

In the press we have seen that universities such as UCT are in the process of approving a mandatory vaccination policy and it is currently being debated at Wits.  Rhodes University has subsequently approved a mandatory vaccine policy. Many other institutions are sure to follow. In certain sporting codes such as F1 Grand Prix racing the drivers are required to be vaccinated to compete.  Certain companies internationally such as Apple are saying that unvaccinated employees will have to submit themselves to regular testing at their own cost on a weekly basis.

Join our employment law partners in their podcast series in the next few weeks on mandatory vaccination in the workplace where the topic is extensively discussed, and various nuances are considered.  This is complex topic which will be vigorously debated by South Africans in the coming months, and which has no easy or quick answers or solutions.