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DOLE: No Jab, No Pay Allowed For Certain Establishments

DOLE: No Jab, No Pay Allowed For Certain Establishments
A resident receives a COVID-19 vaccine as the Office of the Vice President conducted the second run of the Vaccine Express in Laus Convention Center, San Fernando City, Pampanga on Oct. 15, 2021. The vaccinees comprised individuals from the A4 priority group who received their first dose last Sept. 17, 2021. A total of 1,591 residents were able to receive their second dose through the Vaccine Express, which was done in partnership with the local government of San Fernando City, civil society groups, and Angat Buhay partner Equilibrium Intertrade Corporation and Curve Coffee Collaborators.

Unvaccinated workers may not be terminated, but for those employed in certain industries identified by the pandemic task force, they will not get paid when required by their employers not to report for duty, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said on Sunday, Oct. 24.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III made this clarification as he earlier cited “restaurants, spas and other establishments” that offer dining or personal services as exemptions to the existing prohibition against “no jab, no work” and “no jab, no pay” policies.

Bello said that based on the resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), restaurants, hotels and similar establishments located in areas under Alert Level 3 are required to have their employees vaccinated in order to operate.

Among those listed by the IATF are “venues for meetings, incentives conferences and exhibitions (MICE), permitted venues for social events, visitor or tourist attractions, amusement or theme parks, recreational venues like internet cafes, billiard halls, amusement arcades, bowling alleys, skating rinks, archery halls, swimming pools and similar venues.

Cinema and movie houses, limited face-to-face or in-person classes for higher education, dine-in services for food preparation establishments such as barbershops, spas, hair salons, nail spas and those offering aesthetic services or procedures, fitness studios, gyms and venues for non-contact exercise and sports, and film and television production.

These establishments are also categorized as businesses that fall under the 3Cs, which the Department of Health (DOH) earlier described as “crowded places, close contact settings, and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation” where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high.

“The IATF resolution provides that they can only operate if their employees are vaccinated,” Bello said.

Specifically, the IATF allows establishments under Alert Level 3 to operate at a maximum of 30% indoor venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only and 50% outdoor venue capacity, “provided that all employees are fully vaccinated against COVID.”

“Now, it does not mean you can be terminated. They cannot because as I said earlier, you cannot dismiss or terminate the service of any worker because of not being vaccinated,” Bello said during a virtual forum.

“So you cannot terminate the employee, you can only tell him not to report and then this will result in what you’re saying as the ‘no vaccine, no pay’ because without reporting to work, that’s no work, no pay,” he pointed out.

While the unvaccinated worker will not receive a salary for not rendering services, he or she will retain the “employed” status, the labor chief said.

However, the floating status will not be for long because the current protocol will change when the alert level is lowered, he added.

The policy, as explained by Bello, cannot be considered a labor rights violation since there is an IATF resolution providing for the exemption.

But senatorial aspirant and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) president Sonny Matula stressed that the IATF resolution is not superior to the law against mandatory vaccination.

 “Section 12 of (Republic Act No.) 11525 tells us that vaccination is not a mandatory requirement for employment,” Matula said. “The enforcement of no vaccine, no pay is highly questionable. In my mind, it is illegal and such a policy should be abandoned.”

But Bello stressed that the IATF policy only covers selected establishments and as a general rule, an employer cannot compel any worker to get vaccinated.

He emphasized the importance of vaccination to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country, citing that as more people have been vaccinated, COVID-19 cases significantly dropped.

At present, only about 35% of the country’s workforce is vaccinated. Bello expressed optimism that the vaccination rate among the employed would hit 80% when there are already enough vaccines.

When the alert level is downgraded in the coming weeks, more establishments can operate and thus promote employment, he said.