India: Q&A - Employer COVID-19 Vaccination Policies

Can an employer compel compulsory vaccination? If yes, are there any exceptions or special circumstances that an employer must consider?

I don’t believe an employer can compel compulsory vaccination.

Can employees refuse to be vaccinated - how does this balance against the freedom of choice and the obligation to provide a safe work environment?

I believe they would be within their right to refuse vaccination. Practically, the rollout of the vaccine to the general public is likely to still take time and this may not be a feasible pre-condition to resume work. There can be other checks and balances to ensure a safe work environment such as regular sanitization and following protocols recommended by the Government agencies. This is of course an evolving situation and we will need to revisit this once immunization programs are being rolled out.

In the event of a refusal can an employee be dismissed for refusal to comply with such a vaccination policy - will that constitute just cause for termination?

In my view, the refusal to get vaccinated may not be sufficient grounds for termination. This would of course need to be closely examined for specific circumstances, the sectors in which such employees are engaged and also policies of the government relating to vaccination.

Contributor

Bhuvana Veeraragavan, AZB & Partners
bhuvana.veeraragavan@azbpartners.com