Barbados Issues Warning To Employers Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination

(CMC)— The Barbados government has warned employers that workers cannot be dismissed for failing to take the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.

Labour and Social Partnership Relations Minister, Colin Jordan, said the workers here are protected by the Employment (Prevention of Discrimination) Act, which, among other things, prohibits discrimination on the grounds of a person’s medical condition.

“Additionally, employers are prohibited from requiring a person to be tested for a medical condition either as a precondition for entering into a contract of employment or as a condition for continuing employment. This prohibition is subject to if the test or knowledge of a medical condition is required because of what is called a genuine occupational qualification.”

Jordan said that a genuine occupational qualification is when a requirement is an inherent requirement or absolutely necessary for a particular position or function.

He said there could also be a legal requirement, as in the case of persons working with food preparation.

Another example would be if a person is being hired for a position that requires travel to a country which mandates having a Yellow Fever vaccination for entry into the country. The worker will need to have the vaccine if he or she is going to be employed in that role.

Jordan said it would be for an employer to prove that the vaccination or test is absolutely necessary in order for him/her to function in the particular capacity.

“Workers in Barbados are also protected on the basis of their religious beliefs. Barbados has not made the taking of a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory and so there is no legislation that requires a worker to be vaccinated.

“We remain committed to following the science. That science says that the risk of transmission is significantly increased when a person is in close contact with an infected person for a prolonged period of time without a barrier to their nose or mouth (face mask) in an enclosed area and is not practicing good hand hygiene.”

He said that all persons need to follow the protocols established so as to curb the spread of the virus that has infected 4,036 and killed 46 others since March last year.

“We also remain strongly of the view that Barbadians should get vaccinated for their own protection and that of their close relatives and dependents, particularly older relatives and dependents, and relatives/dependents with medical conditions that cause them to be at greater risk,” Jordan added.