The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) confirmed that employers cannot fire their unvaccinated workers or impose vaccination as a prerequisite for employment, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Thursday.
Guevarra, a member of the IATF, said the members of the task force agreed on Oct. 26 that vaccination cannot be used as a prerequisite for employment.
“I emphasized that the ‘COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021’ was clear on the non-compulsory nature of vaccination as an additional requirement for employment,” Guevarra said.
“Unless amended or modified by Congress, it is the existing and applicable law,” he added
Guevarra recalled that during the meeting that no IATF member expressed “any different or contrary position.”
On Oct. 20, Guevarra warned employers against violations of Section 12 of Republic Act No. 115251, the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
He said that under RA 115251, “the vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”
Guevarra cited the provision in the law after several business groups recommended the employment only of persons who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Thursday thanked Guevarra for upholding the law and standing up for workers during the pandemic.
The TUCP said Guevarra’s pronouncements on the issue offer assurance to workers who were demoralized and confused on the prospect of losing their jobs and their families go hungry caused by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s interpretation of an IATF guidelines that some unvaccinated workers in some sectors can be fired and cannot be hired during Alert Level 3.
The country’s biggest group of local business owners, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said Thursday its members should not fire workers who refuse to or cannot get vaccinated.
“I agree with the IATF. But employers should make sure that (the workers) they will be hiring should be COVID-free before deployment,” said PCCI chairman emeritus Francis Chua.
He added that employers also need to protect the rest of their workers and keep a healthy environment for all.