‘No vaccine, no work’ may change soon, says DOLE chief
MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) affirmed on Sunday that inoculations remain voluntary and employers cannot compel workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as provided in the immunization law, or Republic Act No. 11525.
But RA 11525 was meant to encourage nationwide vaccinations and prevailing laws also do not compel employers to break lawful quarantine rules meant to protect other workers and the public from the pandemic that has already claimed more than 40,000 lives in the country.
“The rule is, you cannot compel a worker to get vaccinated,” Bello, a lawyer and former secretary of justice, said in an online press forum on Sunday a day after incumbent Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said RA 11525 prohibited making vaccinations a requirement for employment.
But, Bello clarified, that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) issued rules, which allowed restaurants, barbershops and salons, spas and gyms to accept fully vaccinated customers so long as all the workers are fully vaccinated.
“Under the IATF resolution … [certain] employers cannot have employees come to work if they are not vaccinated,” Bello said, adding that the government could shut down establishments and impose fines if they break quarantine and endanger public health.
But “even if select establishments may refuse unvaccinated employees from working by virtue of the IATF resolution, they cannot terminate their workers even if unvaccinated. They cannot also withhold the salaries already earned.”
“It is very clear that even if the employee cannot come to work, his status as an employee continues. He cannot be fired for the reason that he is not vaccinated,” the labor chief said.
“You cannot dismiss or terminate the services of any worker because of his not being vaccinated. You’re not firing him, but only telling him not to report to work and this will result in ‘no vaccine, no pay’ because ‘no work no pay,’” Bello insisted, echoing a principle enshrined in labor law.
At any rate, Bello said quarantine rules were fluid and may change within weeks because of the decreasing number of cases in Metro Manila due to the government’s vaccination program.
“The protocol is good for 15 days (until Oct. 30). Maybe by next week this will be changed,” he said.
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