by Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star), 4 Mar 2021
MANILA, Philippines — A “no vaccination, no work” policy enforced by any company or employer is illegal, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said yesterday.
“It is not legal for employers to require the employee to be vaccinated (against COVID-19) before they can enter the workplace. There’s no legal basis for that,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said at a virtual press briefing.
Bello warned companies nationwide against enforcing such a policy, stressing that they could be held liable under the law if they fire or suspend an employee who refuses inoculation against COVID-19.
“So it will be considered as illegal suspension or illegal dismissal or whatever action the employer will give to the employee who is not yet vaccinated,” he said.
Vaccination cannot be mandated by employers, thus refusal to take a COVID-19 jab cannot be a ground for termination or imposition of sanctions against workers.
“That will be discrimination. We will come out with necessary and appropriate department order to protect our workers,” Bello said.
The same point was driven across by Sen. Francis Tolentino, who authored an anti-discriminatory provision in Republic Act 11525, the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which was recently signed by President Duterte.
COVID-19 vaccination cards, mandated under the recently enacted law, will not be a mandatory requirement for education, employment or similar government transactions and should not be a cause of discrimination, Tolentino said.
Section 12 of RA 11525 provides that COVID-19 vaccine cards “shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for education, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.”
The provision proscribes discriminatory acts that may be directed against non-inoculated persons and which could lead to possible violations of basic human rights.
The provision safeguards students, regular employees, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and others from discrimination resulting from non-inoculation.
In guarding against possible prejudicial acts, the Tolentino amendment mandates that inoculation against COVID-19 should not be made a precondition for entitlement to necessary services or a basis for preferential acts.
“Hence, inoculation should not be a determinant whether a person is fit or unfit for work. Neither should it be made a prerequisite for acceptance in any educational institutions nor in the availment of government services,” the senator said.
He said the provision also allays the fear of organized labor groups opposed to the adoption of a “no vaccination, no work” policy. – Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Fellipe