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Call for comments on mandatory workplace vaccine passports

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Advocacy non-profit Dear South Africa is inviting the South African public to comment on, object to, or support mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passports in the workplace.

This, as a heated public debate continues on whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be made compulsory for employees.

South Africa's electronic vaccine passport, which can be used as evidence of vaccination, and may allow those who are vaccinated access to events and certain places, including the workplace, is expected to officially be rolled out from today.

Sign-up takes place through the COVID-19 vaccine certificate portal, which allows users to create a QR code showing their COVID-19 vaccination status on their phones.

According to the national Department of Health, the development and release of the vaccination certificates will be phased-in over time.

In June, the Department of Employment and Labour gazetted a directive on COVID-19 vaccination in certain workplaces, as part of the new consolidated policy on occupational health and safety measures, which expressly permit an employer to implement a mandatory vaccination policy subject to certain guidelines.

It stipulates that employers are required to come up with reasonable resolutions so that all parties are accommodated should employees refuse COVID-19 vaccinations on medical and Constitutional grounds.

While the directive does not make the vaccine mandatory, it places the onus on the employer to take into account its general duties under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which mandates the provision of a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees and persons other than those employed who may be directly affected,

According to the department, a mandatory vaccination policy is subject to certain guidelines, including:

• The workplace plan must be amended to indicate whether the vaccinations will be made mandatory.

• Which categories of employees are to be vaccinated.

• The manner in which the company will adhere to the department’s directive.

• Measures to be taken to implement the programme and allow paid time off for employees to be vaccinated.

Dear South Africa has urged the public to express their views on the matter, noting that participation in the decision-making processes means a possibility for citizens, civil society organisations and other interested parties to influence the development of policies and laws which affect them.

“Dear South Africa is a legally recognised and constitutionally protected non-profit platform, which enables the public to co-shape all government policies, amendments and proposals. We invite the public to comment on vaccine passports, mandatory vaccination in the workplace and mandatory vaccinations in schools,” says Rob Hutchinson, MD of Dear South Africa.

“We’ve run many successful campaigns and have amassed a considerably large active participant network of over 750 000 individuals across the country and beyond.We’ve made it easy for you, as a responsible citizen of South Africa, to influence government decisions before they are made.”

The advocacy group consolidates the comments and submits them to government for review.

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