Can covid 19 vaccination/pcr testing be made a mandatory condition for employment?

Covid-19 Workplace Safety Guidelines in Sri Lanka

The Covid 19 pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses and its operations in Sri Lanka.

From a work place perspective, employers are implementing safety measures to reduce the risk of exposure which include enabling staff to work from home when possible, practicing social distancing in the workplace, increased hygiene and environmental cleanliness etc.

The Guidelines issued by the Government suggests that prior to entering work spaces, each employee must ensure that they do not possess any of the general symptoms identified in COVID 19 patients including fever, colds, sore throat etc. All establishments are required to maintain records of the details of those entering and exiting their premises (details include name, NIC number, address and contact number). In the event any positive cases of employees are reported, the same should be informed to the Ministry of Health. Additionally, periodic disinfection procedures are to be carried out at the work premises.

Sri Lanka is now on an escalated vaccination drive. However, currently no laws/regulations have been introduced in relation to making vaccination/PCR testing mandatory, in the absence of which implementation of the same could give rise to exposures, more particularly founded on wrongful and/or constructive termination.

In terms the existing Heath Guidelines, obtaining of the Covid-19 vaccine is optional in Sri Lanka. In such circumstances, there is no basis for an employer to compel an employee to get vaccinated and/or make it a mandatory requirement for continued employment and/or the granting of access to the office premises.

However, in practice, an employer may;

  • Place such employees (who are not vaccinated) on fully paid leave.
  • Require them to work from home where practicable; and/or,
  • Administer PCR testing on a scheduled basis at the cost and expense of the employer.

On a test of reasonability, an employee cannot refuse to undergo PCR testing under such arrangement (without plausible cause) and this would serve as valid grounds for furloughing, especially where work from home is not a suitable and/or adequate alternative.

This is only an overview of the applicable law and should not be relied upon as legal advice or recommendation by D. L. & F. De Saram, a leading law firm in Sri Lanka.

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