Get vaccinated or get laid off

14th of October 2021 Article by Christian Bouzols
Get vaccinated or get laid off

News of latest legislation around Covid-19 vaccination from Christian Bouzols in France.

The spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant is changing France’s labour legislation. A bill that has been adopted by the Senate should enter into force this September. The central provision is that vaccination will be made obligatory for certain categories of workers active in health services or in enterprises, such as retirement homes, all of whom will need to get the vaccination pass.

It will also be necessary to produce a vaccination pass when entering a restaurant, a bar, a theatre or a cinema. Therefore a wide range of people will need to be vaccinated.

The debate in Parliament focussed on what kind of sanctions were going to be imposed on those who, among the various occupations concerned, were still going to refuse that shot in the arm.
The minister for labour, Elisabeth Borne, gave details on what sanctions might be applied, as of the return from school holidays, on workers refusing to get the vaccine.

She said their employment contract would be suspended. These workers would therefore not be paid as long for as they didn’t get the vaccination pass. However, Borne added that “one shouldn’t let those workers think they could never be laid off.

“What we wanted right from the start was to convince the workers concerned to be vaccinated and to make it easier for them to do so. That’s why the bill contained a provision whereby workers will be given permission to leave their work without loss of pay in order to be vaccinated. The bill also provided that if a worker couldn’t produce a valid vaccination pass, he could have a conversation with his employer to see how he might meet his obligation, to discuss an eventual reduction of working hours or the possibility of being given other tasks not involving the need to be vaccinated”.

Initially, the bill had provided that refusal to be vaccinated could lead to termination of employment. This provision was ruled out, but it might still be reintroduced. “Given that wages would have been suspended, such a situation couldn’t have lasted forever and the idea was to stipulate how, if the case should arise, termination of employment contract could be implemented, stipulating in particular that this could take place only after two months,” the minister added.

However, the Senate decided to delete this two-month delay when passing the final version of the bill, as it wanted to do away with any reference to contract termination. But in reality, termination won’t necessarily disappear.

“It doesn’t mean that termination of employment contract won’t ever take place. What it means is this measure is less clearly defined in the law, and termination might well take place earlier. We are in the context of ordinary labour law,” Borne stressed.

She added that a new law would be passed if necessary. “If the health situation requires it and it becomes necessary to extend these provisions, then we’ll return to Parliament.”

It remains to be seen if this obligatory vaccination pass, currently limited to certain professions, will be extended to all wage earners that come into contact with the public. This could involve cleaning workers, who already have to be vaccinated if they work in retirement homes or healthcare centres.


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