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In brief

Considering the obligation of employers to ensure a safe working environment by taking on reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their employees, and in light of the present ambiguity of our labor laws in relation to vaccination policies for employees, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued Advisory No. 03, Series of 2021, or the Guidelines on the Administration of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplaces” (“Guidelines“) on 12 March 2021.

As COVID-19 vaccines become available, the Guidelines specifically deal with the applicable rules governing any vaccination policy, which may be implemented by employers and covered establishments in the workplace.


Coverage

All establishments and employers in the private sector that administer COVID-19 vaccines in their workplaces are covered by the Guidelines.

Enforcement and compliance

The Guidelines shall take effect immediately.

1. Vaccination in the workplace

The Guidelines provide that covered establishments and employers are allowed to procure COVID-19 vaccines, supplies, and other services in relation thereto. They may also seek the support of the appropriate government agencies in the procurement, storage, transport, deployment, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. However, no cost of vaccination in the workplace shall be charged against or passed on, directly or indirectly, to the employees.

The vaccination policy, which shall be adopted and implemented by covered establishments and employers, shall be consistent with the guidelines issued by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

2. Non-discrimination and non-termination of employees

Covered establishments and employers shall encourage their employees to get vaccinated. However, any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits. More importantly, employees who refuse to be vaccinated may not be terminated from their employment. A “no vaccine, no work” policy is not allowed.

Conclusion

The Guidelines do not require employers to administer COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace.  They merely regulate what employers can or cannot do in case these employers voluntarily decide to administer COVID-19 vaccines.  Based on the Guidelines, employers should be mindful that: (i) employers may procure COVID-19 vaccines, supplies and other services (subject to regulatory considerations on private procurement of COVID-19 vaccines); (ii) if an employer decides to administer COVID-19 vaccines to its employees, the employer should adopt and implement the appropriate vaccination policy in the workplace; (iii) employers may not charge the cost of vaccination to employees; (iv) employees have the right to choose between getting vaccinated and not getting vaccinated; (v) employers may not discriminate against or dismiss employees who choose not to be vaccinated; and (vi) employers may not implement a “no vaccine, no work” policy. Employers should also review their existing policies and protocols to ensure they do not violate the Guidelines.

Given that the opportunity for COVID-19 vaccinations is only just emerging and the government’s response to the COVID-19 situation is fluid, employers should continue to monitor new Philippine guidelines or regulations on this matter.

Author

Eliseo Zuñiga, Jr. is a partner in the Employment and Dispute Resolution Practice Groups. He is also a member of the Industrial, Manufacturing & Telecommunications and the Healthcare industry groups in Manila. He has 19 years of experience advising clients on general employment issues, employee termination, executive compensation, benefits transfers and terminations, and general litigation. He actively participates as a speaker and presenter in various regional and local seminars and conferences on labor and employment-related issues. He serves as a Chairperson of the People Management Association of the Philippines’ Labor Policy Reforms and Industrial Relations Committee and Co-Chairperson of the European Chamber of Commerce Human Capital Committee. He has been cited as a Leading Individual in Employment by The Legal 500 Asia Pacific (2019-2020) and the Chambers Asia Pacific (2018-2020).

Author

Patrick Henry Salazar is a senior associate in Quisumbing Torres’ Employment Practice Group and the Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry Group. He has seven years of experience advising clients on general employment matters. He graduated class valedictorian from the University of the Philippines - College of Law, and placed 6th in the 2012 bar examinations.

Author

Maria Veronica M. Manalo is an Associate in Quisumbing Torres, Manila office.