Law may be needed to keep employers from hiring unvaccinated workers — Palace

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Law may be needed to keep employers from hiring unvaccinated workers â Palace
Marlene Cenina, 39, sewer, works making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontliners, in Cainta, Philippines, on April 24, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A law may be needed to bar businesses from hiring unvaccinated persons, Malacañang said Thursday, as it expressed confidence that the vaccine rollout would be faster because of an adequate supply of jabs.

"Well, kinakailangan po siguro ng batas kung ipagbabawal iyong pagha-hire ng mga non-vaccinated individuals (Well, perhaps a law is needed to prohibit the hiring of non-vaccinated individuals)," presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a lawyer, said at a press briefing.

"We have proven that we can fast-track that (vaccination) because in Metro Manila, more than 80% have been vaccinated. Before, our problem was the supply. Now, we have a lot of supplies," he added.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. previously said there would be no discrimination if an employer refuses to hire a person who is not yet inoculated against COVID-19. He pointed out that companies have the responsibility to protect their personnel and customers against health risks.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, however, recently said companies cannot reject unvaccinated applicants, citing the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which states that vaccine cards "shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes."

Can employers require workers to get vaccinated?

On Thursday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that the current quarantine system can be used to require workers to get vaccinated.

"There's an [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] resolution saying that if Alert Level 3 is hoisted, a restaurant can operate. But that restaurant's employees and customers need to be vaccinated. So there is now a law," the labor chief said in a mix of English and Filipino.

IATF resolutions are recommendatory and need approval from President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Because now there is an obligation on the part of the employer that their employees are vaccinated. So they can also require their employees to get vaccinated because there is a legal basis," Bello added.

Guevarra on Thursday declined to comment on Bello's assertion, saying it would be better to discuss it within the IATF.

As of October 20, about 24.88 million persons or 32.25% of the Philippines' eligible population have been fully vaccinated. In Metro Manila, the country's economic center, the vaccination rate is at 81.40% of the eligible population or about 7.96 million individuals.

A total of 53.84 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered nationwide.

Roque said the Duterte administration would deliver vaccines to Central Luzon, CALABARZON and other provinces to raise the Philippines' overall vaccination rate.

Asked to react to the proposal to impose vaccination quotas per province, Roque said the government's pandemic task force need not tackle the matter.  

"It is just an implementation of the vaccination program, only the NTF (National Task Force Against COVID-19) can decide on that," the Palace spokesman said.  

The Duterte administration has raised its daily vaccination target from 500,000 to 1.5 million to achieve a "happy Christmas" this year. 

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