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I'm from South Africa but we basically follow British/USA law so answers from any of those jurisdictions will be fine. I work in digital marketing. But my boss doesn't want us to work from home. Please note I have no condition that restricts me from taking the vaccine, I just prefer not to.

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  • What industry / profession are you in? In England for example it's a mandatory condition of employment for some NHS workers (doctors, nurses etc who have physical contact with patients etc).
    – Rick
    Jan 26 at 13:16
  • digital marketing. But my boss doesn't want us to work from home. Jan 26 at 13:27
  • Do you have a medical reason for not being able to take the vaccine besides being scared of needles?
    – user40839
    Jan 26 at 13:32
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    No just prefer not to take it Jan 26 at 13:33
  • Have you had COVID recently? Some measures allow that in lieu of a vaccine.
    – user40839
    Jan 26 at 13:53

2 Answers 2

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It is legal for South African employers to adopt a mandatory vaccination policy. The guidelines for such policies are described in Annexure C of Consolidated Coronavirus COVID-19 Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces, released in June 2021.

Briefly, it appears that employers may impose mandatory vaccination policies. However, employees can object to being vaccinated policy on "constitutional1 or medical grounds". If the employee does so, the employer must "counsel the employee", refer them for further medical examination (if a medical exemption is claimed), and provide "reasonable accommodations" so that employees who remain unvaccinated can remain employed.

What exactly is a "reasonable accommodation" is in the eye of the beholder. Working from home is mentioned as a possible accommodation in the above-linked document. Other possible accommodations might include being transferred to a position that involves less public interaction, being required to wear a mask at all times, or working at different hours or a different location from other employees. If reasonable accommodations cannot be made due to the nature of the employer and the employee's position & duties, then the employee may be dismissed.

Ultimately, what types of accommodations are "reasonable" will depend on the specific circumstances of the employer and the employee. If you are considering going this route, it would be worth your while to consult with a lawyer. If you have a trade union that represents you, it might be worth consulting with them as well.

Finally, while the above outlines your legal rights to refuse to be vaccinated, I feel obliged to encourage you to just get vaccinated. The risks are minuscule and the benefits to you and those around you are substantial.


1 "Constitutional" here refers to religious beliefs but also to Section 12(2)(b) of the South African Constitution, which guarantees that everyone has the right "to security in and control over their body".

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Pimlico plumbers announced that they would be instituting such a policy. However after some time they changed their mind to only require it of new starters. It is thought this is because they considered it would be illegal to do so, under the Equality Act 2010.

Every case will be considered on its merits, and if the employer can make a case that theirs is a high-risk coronavirus work environment then it is quite possible that it would be ruled legal. If digital marketing is a desk job, and other protections could be put in place that would not have such a discriminatory effect then that would probably not be easy.

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  • Note that trypanophobia is not covered under the 2010 equality act- the potential issues were people with disabilities or religious objections.
    – user40839
    Jan 26 at 14:04

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