As we approach the first anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 as a global pandemic, many jurisdictions are still grappling with the seemingly unstoppable spread of the virus. In response, governments around the world are looking to roll out vaccines as soon as they become available. In Hong Kong, the government has introduced the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme (“Programme”), which allows Hong Kong residents to be voluntarily vaccinated free of charge.
Throughout the course of the COVID pandemic, many businesses (especially those in consumer and retail sectors) have been heavily disrupted by mandatory lockdowns, restricted operating hours and limitations on social gatherings.
With the Programme in its initial stages of roll out, many employers will be confronted with the question as to whether they can or should compel their employees to get vaccinated. The issues with vaccinations involved from a policy perspective require a delicate balancing of individual liberties, public health and employment obligations and responsibilities. This delicate balancing act is being tested (pardon the pun) already in an employment context, with the Hong Kong government linking the reopening rights of certain businesses with COVID-19 testing of their employees.
In this article, we provide a framework through which employers may wish to consider vaccination issues relating to their employees. Importantly, this is an evolving area, and the impact of this framework may differ from one business to another quite markedly, and also in response to developments in government policies.