COVID-19 Vaccines and Tests, What Can Employers Demand?By Andrea Villar | Thu, 08/05/2021 - 10:32
As economic activities pick up speed and companies continue to ask their employees to return to the office, the debate over whether companies can require their workforce to be vaccinated and even pay for COVID-19 testing has heated up.
But what can employers demand of their workforce upon return to the office? Sara Morgan, Head of the Mexico City Labor Ombudsman's Office puts it bluntly: companies cannot require their employees to be vaccinated or pay for COVID-19 testing. “In democracies, there is the right to privacy and the freedom to decide about one's own body,” Bettina Scheller, President of the World Employment Confederation (WEC), told El Economista.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. While it is the obligation of employers to promote an infection-free environment, it is also the obligation of workers to “protect themselves,” Morgan added. According to her, if a company finds out, either through social media or otherwise, that a worker is not taking the necessary precautions to avoid infection, the employer can require that person to take a COVID-19 test at their own expense.
In the US, Google is requiring its employees to be vaccinated before returning to the office in mid-October. In a blog post, CEO Sundar Pichai said that “getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead.” He also mentioned that the policy will be expanded to other regions and added there would be exemptions for those who could not be vaccinated for medical conditions, regulations or poor availability of vaccines in certain areas. Netflix will also require actors and those working near them to be vaccinated in its US productions, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This move was made in agreement with Hollywood unions and studios.
The biggest move, however, has come from President Joe Biden, who said in late July that federal workers and contractors will have to show their vaccination status or be tested up to twice a week. “With freedom comes responsibility, and your decision not to get vaccinated impacts someone else,” Biden said. “If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated.”
In Mexico, despite the third wave of COVID-19 containing the new Delta variant and the unfinished vaccination process, federal workers returned to their offices on August 1. Any government office can ask its workers to return if they are fully immunized, meaning they already received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Official Journal of the Federation (DOF) said. People in particular risk situations such as those with chronic illnesses like morbid obesity, diabetes, hypertension, HIV or chronic kidney disease and cancer can continue to work from home.