Labour PS says no one is to be sent home for suspected COVID-19
Government has vowed to protect non vaccinated employees in both the public and private sectors against possible dismissal from work.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Employment, Labour, Productivity and Skills Development, Gaiemelwe Goitsemang, says as COVID-19 vaccination intensifies across the country, employers will not be allowed to fire employees who do not want to be vaccinated.
“The fact that we are under COVID-19 does not take away the rights of employees,” Goitsemang said. “The current arrangement is that if an employee is not feeling well, they are advised not to report for duty so that they do not infect others.”
He warned that “delinquent” employers who force employees to take unpaid leave on grounds of suspected COVID-19 are in violation of labour laws.
“There is no law which supports that an employee should not report for duty because they have not been vaccinated,” the PS noted. “I want to advise any employee who feels their rights are being trampled upon based on refusal to vaccinate to report the matter so that their rights can be protected.”
However, Goitsemang said his office has not received any reports of employees being ordered to vaccinate or risk losing their jobs. “We have different ways of dealing with issues where employers trample upon the rights of their employees,” he said. “The procedure is clear in terms of our labour laws that when you want to retrench, you communicate your desire to the Commissioner of Labour.”
Even so, Goitsemang said there is no specific penalty for employers who discriminate or retrench employees who refuse to be vaccinated. All issues addressed to the Commissioner are dealt with based on their merit, he added. “We will of course engage employers who decide to trample upon the rights of employees to ask why they did not follow labour laws,” the PS emphasized.
But in spite of these rights, Goitsemang said, the government will always encourage people to get vaccinated as soon as vaccines become available.
The Member of Parliament for Bobonong, Taolo Lucas, said MPs should be looking at issues of justice, fairness and non-discrimination. “Whatever decision is taken around these issues, it should be taken against looking at the principles of justice, fairness and non-discrimination and I think already most of our laws will speak against discrimination on the basis of the status of any person,” said Lucas.
The MP for Molepolole North, Oabile Regoeng, described the government vaccination programme as “messed up”, saying they long advised allowing private companies to purchase vaccines for their employees. Regoeng added that although some employers will seek to dismiss employees as a protective measure, that should not be allowed.
“Although the issue of dismissing non vaccinated employees has not crossed my mind, it would be best for us to look into it so that there is no abuse of human rights,” he noted.