By: Amar Persaud
Advisor to the Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy has made it clear that companies are not breaching any law by mandating that their unvaccinated employees stand the expense of their periodic Covid-19 tests.
In a telephone interview with INews, the Health Advisor pointed out that the Covid-19 vaccines are free and persons who are making the choice not to take them, must bear the consequences of their actions.
“[Tests should be] at the workers expense because they have the vaccines which are available [for free]. While they are free not to take it, employers also have an obligation to keep safe work places and for those who refuse, and if employers require them to demonstrate that they are Covid-free ,then that is up to the employer,” Dr Ramsammy posited.
In recent times, several local private sector companies have mandated that their unvaccinated workers present negative PCR Covid-19 tests regularly.
In most cases, the costs for these tests are to be borne by the employees.
The latest company to implement this measure is the Giftland Mall whereby unvaccinated workers are expected to submit their tests weekly.
Several persons have since taken to social media to point out that Section 47 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act stipulates that ‘if a worker participates in a prescribed medical surveillance programme, undergoes prescribed examinations or tests, his or employer shall pay.’
But Dr Ramsammy explained that this law does not apply in this situation.
“That doesn’t apply. Surveillance means that I’m going…to find those who are positive and to establish a prevalence, etc. That not what this is all about. This is an employer who wants to know whether you’re Covid-free or not, that employer is not doing no surveillance tests on our behalf,” he stated.
The Health Advisor also ruled out the option of the Guyana Government standing the expense for such PCR tests for unvaccinated workers.
“The Government’s resources for PCR tests is focused on diagnosis, making sure people who are sick, people who need to be contact-traced…that’s where our services are dedicated to.
“We can’t extend it. If we are providing you with free vaccines and you refuse them and we have to turn around and pay for PCR tests, we can’t do that. So the government will not be providing free PCR tests for employment purposes,” he contended.
Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony has since urged the public to have an understanding of why employers have a right to require their unvaccinated employees to get tested regularly.