Government proposal: Comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare and social welfare personnel to protect patients and clients
The Government proposes a new temporary section (48a) for the Communicable Diseases Act, under which healthcare and social welfare service providers, i.e. employers, could be required to ensure that their employees do not pose a risk of COVID-19 infection to the persons they are caring for.
The section would provide that employees with inadequate vaccination coverage against COVID-19 could work with clients and patients only in exceptional circumstances. The proposed regulation would also apply to public officials and officeholders.
If a person had a medical reason for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, they could, according to the proposal, work if they presented proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to working.
Employers would have the right to process health data concerning the COVID-19 vaccination coverage of their employees or their employees’ recovery from COVID-19. The data should be stored for as long as is necessary to carry out the supervision of healthcare and social welfare services, but for no longer than three years from the date on which the assessment on the suitability of the person was made.
If the employee did not meet the statutory requirements, the employer would, primarily, need to offer the employee equivalent work in accordance with their employment contract, or if this is not possible, other suitable work. If there was no suitable work available or the employee refused to accept it, the employer would not be obligated to pay the employee a salary for the period during which they could not work, unless otherwise agreed.
The amendment would require a transition period of one month to ensure that employers could organise their services properly and to give unvaccinated employees the opportunity to get vaccinated. The employer’s right to process data would, however, enter into force immediately.
It is proposed that the provision enter into force as soon as possible and remain in force until 31 December 2022.
Mirka-Tuulia Kuoksa, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]