Employers can make vaccination mandatory for employees

First COVID-19 vaccinations in Tallinn (photo is illustrative).
First COVID-19 vaccinations in Tallinn (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Labor Inspectorate has said employers can require their staff to be vaccinated against coronavirus and, in exceptional circumstances, terminate a contract if an employee is not vaccinated. This is possible because an employer can list a vaccination as a mandatory qualification for a position.

On Thursday, ETV's current news show "Aktuaalna kaamera" reported that the expectations of Ida-Viru Central Hospital's board were different from reality when fewer staff than expected expressed an interest in the COVID-19 vaccination.

"While 130 employees reacted immediately at the first chance to vaccinate, we expected the pace to stay like that, but it has been more lukewarm than expected," chief doctor of the Ida-Viru Central Hospital Toomas Kariis said.

Kariis said that nobody will be forced to get the vaccination. "The hospital is big and for example, nurses can be located to a department where the risk of getting infected is smaller. We are trying to manage with the forces we have," he said.

Ida-Viru Central Hospital is not the only employer experiencing vaccinations problems.

Employees of several institutions have turned to the Labour Inspectorate to ask about the possibilities of not getting the vaccine. There have also been employers who have turned to the inspectorate asking about the possibilities of making the vaccine mandatory for the employees.

According to the Labour Inspectorate, everything is clear: the employer has to evaluate the risks related to the job regardless of the field and in the light of the coronavirus, the risks should be reevaluated.

"When all these risks are evaluated and the employer has found that vaccination is necessary for the situation, then he will establish a new qualification requirement and if the employee doesn't comply with the requirement, the employment can be terminated exceptionally. The reason is not that the employee refused to get vaccinated, but the fact that he is not qualified," Head of the Labor Inspectorate's Prevention Department Kaire Saarep said.

Adding vaccination to the list of required qualifications has to be proportionate. For example, healthcare workers have a bigger chance of being infected than teachers or customer service workers who can use additional measures.

"But if there aren't any or they are not enough, then it's possible to terminate the employment with a person who isn't medically able to get vaccinated," Saarep said.

Medical law attorney Maret Kruus said that terminating employment should be exceptional and the last resort.

"In the case of healthcare workers, it is possible to use self-protective equipment, implement regular testing and it's possible to regulate the working process so the risks are smaller," Kruus said.

If the employer makes vaccination part of the qualification requirements and the employee considers it not necessary for the job, he can turn to the Labour Inspectorate or court.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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