Industrial Court President Deborah Thomas-Felix says a mandatory COVID 19 vaccination policy cannot be introduced as a new term of employment to existing employees without consultation.
Speaking today at a special sitting of the Court for the 2021/2022 Law Term, Mrs Thomas-Felix pointed out the complexity of this issue.
She says generally speaking, a vaccination policy may be included as a condition for new employment.
But with regard to existing terms and conditions, she says it is settled law that an employer “ought not to unilaterally make any material change or alteration to a worker’s contract of employment.”
Instead, she reminds that the collective bargaining process extends not only to wage negotiations, but also encompasses the resolution of all issues of common interest in the workplace.
Mrs Thomas-Felix adds that in cases where collective bargaining breaks down, the dispute can be taken to the Labour Ministry or the Industrial Court by means of an Industrial Relations Offence.
She says going forward at the bipartite level, parties may wish to consider adding COVID 19 related clauses to new Collective Agreements.
The Industrial COurt President also stated: “It is not for me to comment and to express an opinion on the debate of whether or not vaccination policy should be mandatory or voluntary in the workplace, except to say what the laws provide if such policies are to be implemented. For the sake of clarity, I have never expressed the view that vaccinations cannot be a protective measure at work. In fact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, of which I am a Member for the past 6 years, examines country reports on certain international standards that, among other things, cover the issue of immunisation in relation to the safety and health of workers in specific occupations and sectors.”