With swift action being taken around the globe to stem cases of the new Omicron variant and with much of Europe already taking preventative measures against a potential fourth wave of the pandemic, once again, multinational employers face the challenge of managing global Covid-19 issues compatibly with fast-moving local changes. While the reported statement from EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen yesterday that European countries should consider mandatory vaccination to combat the new variant might rightly lead employers to think that vaccination as a condition of employment is currently largely optional, a number of countries around the world (including in Europe) have already taken some steps in that direction – whether by mandating vaccination for certain sectors, or, more indirectly, by introducing severe restrictions for the unvaccinated or allowing employers to refuse entry to those who are not jabbed and to send them home without pay. Indeed, just as we go to press on this alert, the wires are buzzing with the news that Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced new restrictions for the unvaccinated in Germany – in particular, barring them from many public places, including non-essential shops and events, unless they have recently recovered from Covid-19. Further, it is reported that a nationwide vaccination mandate could be imposed in Germany from as early as February 2022, subject to parliamentary debate. It is, therefore, more important than ever that employers understand the current position in relation to vaccination in the jurisdictions in which they operate and how this interacts with the other preventative measures available – including working from home.
To assist, we have put together a brief snapshot overview of the position in key jurisdictions, including the answers to arguably the two key questions – should employees be working from home? and can vaccinations be made a mandatory condition of access to the workplace?