Private sector staff could lose their jobs if they fail to comply with Covid rules, Minister says


By Orville Williams

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People working in the private sector have been told they could lose their jobs if they refuse to comply with vaccination or testing requirements for Covid-19.

The government has relaxed its stance on immunization mandates at all levels in recent weeks, but it still requires that “every owner of a business employing five or more people [to] mandate that these employees be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless the company has an vaccination rate of 80 percent or more among employees ”.

According to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, employers can make the decision to fire employees who refuse to join, as that refusal could threaten the safety of others.

“I could see a condition that would lead to the dismissal. Companies – under the directives of the public health opinion – [are required] to ensure there is compliance, whether in terms of vaccination or testing.

“[If] an employee decides that he will not comply with any of these requirements… I think that in such circumstances the employee would decide that he no longer wants to be employed by the [business] because the [business] has a legal obligation to comply with the requirements of the public health notice, ”he explained.

At the end of last month, it was announced that vaccination mandates for the private and public sectors would be relaxed, effective December 1, meaning unvaccinated employees would be free to return to work.

The move was attributed to an increase in the number of companies that had reported an immunization rate of at least 80 percent among their staff, but that would not come smoothly for those unvaccinated staff, as they would still be required to undergo tests every two weeks. .

Nicholas recalled yesterday that as long as unvaccinated employees are prepared to comply with the testing regimen, they cannot be forced to be vaccinated.

” I imagine that [the businesses] can still encourage them to be vaccinated … the mandates go so far as to ensure that we reach 80 percent [mark], [so] if they achieve 80 percent compliance, no further restrictions will be placed on that company to place an additional restriction on unvaccinated people.

“That is, by December 1, if a company already met the 80 percent criteria, it would be enough for the remaining unvaccinated people to undergo a bi-weekly testing regimen at their expense,” Nicholas said. added.

The issue of job security in the midst of immunization mandates has been a hot topic for professionals around the world and many still advocate for the right to choose, so Antigua and Barbuda is certainly not alone.

In the United States, for example, thousands of workers in various industries are made redundant for refusing to comply with mandates, while others choose to quit, also en masse, rather than get vaccinated.

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