No law forbidding mandatory COVID vaccinations in workforce – Bar
Employers are not legally forbidden from enforcing mandatory vaccinations for workers, Jamaican Bar Association President Alexander Williams has said.
Williams noted that no court or any other authority has made any ruling against the issue.
His comment is the latest in a heated debate amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 1,500 people here.
“There is also no law or ruling that says that dismissing a worker for being unvaccinated constitutes discrimination or would not be justifiable in the contest of a global pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Williams said that the Bar Association was concerned about remarks made by a Ministry of Labour and Social Security official on COVID-19 vaccination.
Gillian Corrodus, divisional director of industrial relations and allied services at the ministry, was quoted in the Jamaica Observer as saying that the country has no laws that support mandatory vaccination of workers against COVID-19.
It was further alluded that sanctioning mandatory vaccination may be in contravention of Convention 111 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which addresses discrimination.
But Williams contended that the ILO convention related to freedom from discrimination based on gender, race, place, origin, social class, colour, religion, or political opinions, which are already prohibited under Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
“So, it is not the ILO convention but rather our Constitution that we all, including the Government, will be required to follow,” he said in a statement.
“The question is not simply whether there are laws that support mandatory vaccination but whether there is a law that prohibits it. Presently, there is no law that expressly neither prohibits mandatory vaccination against the COVID-19 by an employee nor has there been a ruling to that effect by a court or other competent authority.
However, given the uncertainty, Williams is recommending that the Government make a public statement on its position, supported by legal advice.
In August, Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated that the Government has no plans to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
However, the police and army have, in effect, imposed vaccine mandates by withdrawing training opportunities or enlistment based on compliance.