COVID-19 Vaccination in India: How Should Employers React
The drug regulator in India has approved two COVID 19 vaccines on a limited and conditional basis. This follows vaccination drives which have started in various other countries and this approval is the first step in the process which will eventually bring the COVID 19 vaccines to recipients in India.
A working vaccine is beneficial to all – it reduces the threat of COVID 19 and the spread of more virulent strains, and assures that the impact to businesses is negligible or perhaps nil. This is encouraging to employers who may be keen to ensure that all personnel are vaccinated and therefore protected.
Pending the larger and complete roll-out of the COVID 19 vaccination in India, we have set out below some key aspects which employers should bear in mind while considering or imposing COVID 19 vaccination for employees and the safety at the workplace –
Data privacy: Employers should assess if their current data privacy consents and policies permit them to safely handle sensitive personal data (especially medical data) of all personnel – medical information of employees includes temperature readings or declarations of good health collected from employees. Employers are liable for the safe collection and processing of employee personal data.
Mandatory vaccination: Vaccination in the current framework is voluntary – an individual cannot be forced to vaccinate. While the official policies concerning this may change, employers should assess the impact of operating with staff who may not be vaccinated and any mitigating measures appropriate to their businesses such as continuing the practice of working from home.
Health and Safety: The employer is responsible for the health and safety of employees at the workplace – sanitization of premises, and good health and safety practices should therefore continue to be implemented.
Standard operating procedures (‘SOP’) – Employers should consider creating SOPs to tackle COVID-19 related situations they are likely to encounter such as sanitisation protocols, employee duties, dealing with ill employees at the workplace and obtaining declarations of good health from employees.
Sharing information with employees: Employers should consider keeping employees updated with information such as public advisories on the vaccination drive and COVID 19 protocols, duties of the employees and health and safety requirements at the workplace.
Special benefits to employees: Employees opting to get vaccinated may require time-off to receive the vaccination or to treat adverse effects of the vaccine. Employers can consider offering employees additional paid leaves to cover such leaves or provide other appropriate benefits.
Private medical insurance: Private health insurance provided by employers may also cover COVID 19 treatment and the costs of free vaccination. Employers should check the availability of these benefits with their medical insurance providers and pass these benefits to the employees.
Travel restrictions: Domestic and international travel restrictions or conditions are still in place. Employers should assess the impact of such restrictions or conditions on business related travel.