Can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign has now started and a large number of employees mainly from the healthcare sector have already been vaccinated. However, it also appears that a small minority of employees refuse to be vaccinated.

Thus, the question arises whether an employer can oblige an employee to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Although there are voices to make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory, the current Belgian (welfare) legislation does not currently provide for a vaccination obligation against COVID-19. Therefore, an employer cannot oblige an employee to be vaccinated against the corona virus.

In the interest of the health of the employee and the continuity of the company, it is of course advisable for an employer to make his employees aware and to encourage them to be vaccinated as much as possible. An employer can opt to offer the vaccine to its employees free of charge. The free vaccination is also exempt from taxes and social security contributions.

Can an employee be fired if he refuses to be vaccinated? As mentioned, there is no legal obligation to vaccinate against the COVID-19 virus in Belgium (yet). If an employee refuses to be vaccinated, this cannot constitute a contractual breach of contract. If an employer were to still dismiss an employee who refuses to be vaccinated, he runs the risk that this dismissal will be regarded as manifestly unreasonable (cf. Collective Labor Agreement 109) or even as discriminatory. Consequently, the employer risks having to pay compensation to the employee. Dismissal based on a vaccination refusal is therefore not recommended.

In the context of its well-being policy, an employer will therefore have to provide other prevention measures in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the workplace (cf. Generic Guide of the FPS WASO) and ensure that these regulations are followed. complied with. Only if an employee systematically disregarded these obligations could a dismissal be justified.