Most Burning Questions about Guidelines Issued For Covid-19 Testing in Public Sector
Posted: Feb 09, 2021
Through the advent of the end of last year, various countries are initiating in their own capacity to fight against the situation of the pandemic owing to the COVID-19 virus. Whilst, UAE is presently experiencing the first wave of vaccination through the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the government has lately declared the circulation of Sinopharm Chinese COVID-19 vaccine among all the nationals.
In addition to that, the UAE government has issued a set of guidelines, specifically focusing on the safety of the public sector employees by the way of creation of spur among them to take up the vaccine and making it a compulsion to have a PCR test in every 14 days, especially for the ones who have not taken up the vaccine yet.
On January 10, 2021, a new set of guidelines came into force in the UAE, which was put forward by the ways of a circular 16 of 2020 on 31st December 2020. It was regarded as paramount to be followed by all the government departments as well as by the companies located in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi.
It unveiled the following measures: Firstly, the employees who are showing up at their workplace are required to bear the cost of the Nasal Swab Test i.e. the PCR test which has to be taken by them compulsorily in every 14 days. The employees who have already been vaccinated are considered to be an exception. Secondly, the governmental departments before tying up with any other company providing services have to make sure that the workers of such an entity have been vaccinated before stepping in the workplace of the government entity.
Before the enforcement of this circular, another federal circular (2 of 2021) was issued on January 5, 2021. This circular came into effect on 17th January, 2020. In the following circular, a set of requisites were established by the Federal Authority For Government Human Resources for three different type of groups of employees of the federal ministries.
The first set of employees are the ones working in the governmental ministries and other entities of federal nature. Under this, a similar requirement was established to take a PCR test every fortnight as that which was established under the previous circular. An exception was added to it for the ones who have been prescribed not to take the vaccine owing to their health conditions, such a class of employees were exempted from taking the test every fortnight.
The second set of employees are the ones working in the outsourcing companies as well as in the public sector service companies. Under this requirement also, a similar criteria is introduced by the government that the ones who are dealing with the federal entities and are required to be physically present at the workplaces of the federal entities are required to mandatorily take up the PCR test every fortnight along with the exemption for the ones who have already been vaccinated.
The last group of employees are the ones who are working under the advisory service companies along with the employees of the consultant firm who usually provide services to the federal entities of the government. This set of regulation poses as a prerequisite for the ones who have to enter the workplace of such federal entities in order to part with their services. Such employees are required to provide a negative result report of the PCR test, 3 days prior to entering the workplace. Vaccinated employees, again being an exception.
In addition to this, an urge was made towards these federal entities, to make their employees take up the vaccine, wherever it was considered necessary. Considerations to be kept in mind by the employees and the employers. Although the given set of circulars do not apply to the entire public sector, they pose few considerations which the employees and the employers are required to consider. Such considerations are:
- The employers need to provide the employees with adequate time off the work so as to make sure they get themselves vaccinated owing to the dual nature of the vaccine, i.e. the vaccines has to be taken up in two separate parts during a fixed time interval. In addition to this a sufficient time shall also be provided to the employees in order to recover themselves from any side effect of the vaccine.
- The employer has an obligation to only encourage the employees to take up the vaccine. Being vaccinated is entirely the choice of the employee. He can not be legally made obligated to take up the vaccine by the employee.
- In a case where the employee is not getting vaccinated because of the health condition or for some personal reasons, the employer is required to look out for various possibilities of the situations that can arise owing to the same. The factors that need to be envisaged are the nature of business, can the employee work remotely, what are the health and safety factors available for other employees, what are the requirements of such employees to attend the governmental entities, what other alternatives are available at their disposal as well as whether the employees can carry out their roles productively.
Owing to the fact that the right to privacy is guaranteed in the constitution of the UAE and there are some federal and local laws that ensure and protect the rights of the individual with respect to their privacy, an obligation is set up at the employer's end to make sure that this right is not breached as long as the privacy of the medical report of an employee is concerned.
As it consist of a penal action also, the employer has to make sure that before sharing the medical report and status of the employee with the third party, permission is obtained from the employee for the same.
At the present, there are no such guidelines present for the private sector, but the following set of regulations do make sure that those entities falling in the private sector are covered under these precautions which have to usually deal with the public sector or has a contract of providing the services. This phase is anticipated to bring out a positive effect in the circumstances prevailing from the pandemic not only in the country but worldwide. A wave of attempts can be seen on the part of the government to ensure such conduct of the mass which will eventually lead to normalize the current scenario.
Dr. Hassan Elhais is a legal consultant in Dubai, specializing in the drafting of all statements of claim, memos and consultation on litigation of all manner.