covid-19

Many employers are trying to force workers who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. Some employers want it done every month, but others are demanding it every two weeks.

Of course, the expectation is that workers will pay for this—and at anything up to $1,400 a test it is hardly worth going to work. You’re not going to work to pay the rent, but to pay the lab!

The argument that many employers are putting up is that this is for the safety of the work environment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers do have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment. To quote the act:

“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Okay so far, but one of the problems with a selective reading of the law is that you are tempted to conveniently miss things that are not in your favour.

Have a look at Section 12 of the OSH Act:

“12. (1) No employer shall levy or permit to be levied on any employee of his in respect of anything done or provided in pursuance of any specific requirement of this Act, except in respect of—

(a) foodstuffs and other items served in a canteen;

(b) things lost or damaged wilfully or through the negligence of the employee; and

(c) protective clothing and devices where the employee is employed for one month or less.

(2) Amount levied under subsection (1)(c), shall not be in excess of one-half of the value of the protective clothing or device.”

Section 37 of the Act is even more explicit. It states:

“(1) Where, after the commencement of this Act, a person seeks employment, or is already employed, in an industrial establishment, he may be required by the employer to undergo a medical examination as a pre-condition of permanent employment, or to determine fitness for work, except in such shops or places of work as the Minister may, by Order, exempt.

(2) The cost of the medical examination shall be borne by the employer.”

So, if PCR tests are required by employers to fulfil the obligations under OSH legislation, then it seems they must pay for it and not the workers.

Dave Smith

National Workers Union

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