Can an employer require compulsory vaccination? If yes, are there any exceptions or special circumstances that an employer must consider?
As of this date, COVID-19 vaccination is not compulsory in Paraguay. Only healthcare workers and people over 70 years are eligible to be vaccinated.
Paraguay has enacted Law No. 4621/12 “Vaccination Law”. This law provides that vaccinations, included in the National Program, are mandatory for everyone, except pregnant women and, in some cases, minors. Paraguay has not included the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the National Program; thus, vaccination cannot be mandated.
Additionally, the Paraguayan Labour Code established that an employee cannot be discriminated against for reasons of race, sex, religion, political opinion, or social condition. One may argue that mandating vaccination can be considered a discriminatory action against an employee, considering that vaccination is not mandatory.
Can employees refuse to be vaccinated? How does an employer need to balance its obligation to provide a safe work environment with an employee’s rights?
Employees can refuse to be vaccinated, as the law does not mandate COVID-19 vaccination. Notwithstanding, the Health Ministry has released guidelines to provide a safe work environment (with no mentions about vaccination). Employers must follow these guidelines, for example, establishing work groups. In these groups, an employer may separate vaccinated from non-vaccinated workers
In the event of a refusal, can an employee be dismissed for refusal to comply with the employer’s vaccination policy? Will the employee’s refusal constitute just cause for termination?
Currently, if an employer lays off an employee for not getting vaccinated, it would be considered an unjustified termination.
Given that vaccination is not mandatory by law, refusing to be vaccinated cannot be considered a justified cause of dismissal. Even if it were mandatory, an employee may refuse to be vaccinated due to religious beliefs or due to health concerns, considering the non-discrimination rule of the Labor Code. Therefore, labor courts may even consider it as a discriminatory act against the employee.
What benefits or accommodations do employers have to make for vaccinated employees?
None. Vaccinated employees should continue to follow all current protocols and guidelines.
Can vaccinated employees refuse to work in the same vicinity as employees who are not vaccinated?
There are no laws that would allow this refusal. However, employers must provide a safe environment to all the employees, so they may argue that working alongside non-vaccinated employees is an unsafe environment, but it would mainly depend on the employer. By virtue of the Health Ministry guidelines, group crews (cuadrillas de trabajo) systems are mandatory at work, which will allow companies to divide the crews between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
Employers must continue to uphold preventive and hygiene measures (e.g., masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, etc.), even by vaccinated employees.
In your country, are employers required to provide paid leave for employees to get vaccinated?
No, Paraguayan labor law establishes some paid leaves obligations, up to now there are legal provisions for employees to get vaccinated.
If the employer wants, it may grant paid leave for employees to get vaccinated.