CAN employers/businesses insist on a Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccination as a condition for employment or entry into their business premises? Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1961), they can.
Employers are required by this law to provide a safe work environment for all employees.
This law requires employers to ensure that as much as possible their employees are not exposed to physical or biological hazards that may be detrimental to their workers’ health.
If employers fail to provide a safe working environment for their employees, they can be held legally responsible.
Under this law, for example; if an employee working in a night club gets lung cancer from patrons smoking, the employer can be held liable if the employee is a non-smoker and seeks legal action in the courts and can prove their case.
If an employee is harmed in any way by the negligent behaviour of the employer in a work environment, then the employee is entitled to justice.
This law protects the employee.
This is why employers are required by law to pay for compulsory workers compensation.
All businesses have a duty of care to their customers to provide a safe trading environment as well.
It is for this reason that business owners pay for public liability insurance.
Under this law, all food handlers for example are regularly tested for Hepatitis B and tuberculosis (TB).
At one stage, if someone had HIV/AIDS, you would not be allowed to work in the food industry.
So if an employee has TB or Hepatitis, they would have to be laid off from work in certain occupations.
Under operation of this law, Covid-19 (in my view) falls into the same category as TB and Hepatitis B.
Should an employee or a customer of a business suffer any injury or harm while at the place of business, the employer can be held legally responsible.
While the Covid-19 is a new disease and we are just learning about it, I am quite confident that if a worker or a customer catches the Covid-19 at a certain workplace and it harms their health and it can be proven in a court of law, the employer or business can be legally responsible under our existing laws.
Employers and businesses therefore need to mitigate Covid-19 and other risks at their place of operations as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The act requires employers/businesses to take every reasonable care to ensure that their work places are free of every hazard that could cause harm.
This is why, for example; companies in the construction and mining industry require steel toe boots, high visibility clothing and hard hats in their work places.
Therefore, it is reasonable for employers/businesses to require employees to be vaccinated not just for the Covid-19, but for any other disease that may affect other employees or customers.
These rules have been in place since 1961.
All countries have similar laws.
So, if anyone chooses not to receive a vaccine (as is your right), in the act of protecting other employees and customers, an employer can make a decision as they already do for some diseases that can affect those not vaccinated.
They have had that legal right for decades.
While an individual has the right to not take any vaccines, the general public also has been given rights under law.
Significant responsibility has been placed on employers by law to ensure public Safety in their respective places of business.
Vaccination for the Covid-19 is not compulsory in Papua New Guinea, unlike in some other countries.
However, by choosing not to be vaccinated this could exclude you from places covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
For example, an aircraft cabin is covered by the Act.
Lawyers have to take a look at laws that may be affected by new diseases such as the Covid-19 and how they affect many aspects of our lives into the future.
We are all given certain individual rights under the Constitution but those rights are limited by how they affect someone else’s rights.
I stand to be corrected.
East Sepik Governor