No jab, no job? Malaysian firms may make vaccination a must

PETALING JAYA (Selangor) • Many companies in Malaysia are considering making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for employment, even in the post-pandemic era.

Malaysian Employers Federation president Syed Hussain Syed Husman said it was well within a company's rights to determine the terms and conditions of employment, including requiring vaccination against Covid-19.

"Such a condition is important and relevant as a precautionary measure to ensure the workplace is free of Covid-19," he said when contacted on Friday.

He pointed out that under Section 15 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994, it is the duty of each employer to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all its employees.

"Failure to ensure the health of employees at the workplace, including taking reasonable steps to safeguard employees from being infected with Covid-19, may amount to a breach of the statutory duty of an employer under the Act," he said.

For new hires, he added, a company may ask whether the applicant has been vaccinated against Covid-19 in the application form.

Labour and employment law expert Thavalingam Thavarajah said that although there is no law mandating vaccination in the workforce, employers can still set it as a precondition of employment for job seekers.

However, he said that for existing employees, companies would have to obtain their consent, given that every staff member has the right to refuse to be vaccinated.

"It is basically a contractual issue as per the terms and conditions of employment. You, therefore, cannot force the vaccine upon a worker. Consent would be the best option, especially for employees who do not have such a vaccination provision in their contracts," he said.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said a vaccination requirement was reasonable to ensure the safety of workers, employers and customers.

"We in the food and beverage sector can also be considered front-liners. If the authorities allowed us to do this, we would set such a condition," he said.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 06, 2021, with the headline 'No jab, no job? Malaysian firms may make vaccination a must'. Subscribe