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About two weeks ago, the cabinet secretary of health, Hon. Sen. Mutahi Kagwe announced mandatory vaccination of all people and provision of proof by 21st December 2021. Failing to observe this rule would see about 20 million people being denied in-person government services, access to public transportation means, hotels and bars, national parks, and others. This statement was made during a public address where he stated that although the infection rate is decreasing, a large percentage of people admitted in hospitals for COVID-19 infection are those who have not been vaccinated.

As it would be expected of any national rule, this move will, if it has not already, affect the work life in both negative and positive ways and the effects will last for different durations.

We are yet to see how the environment in Kenya will look like after 21st December 2021 or how the government will address potential areas of challenges before that date, but we can speculate the outcomes and prepare in advance.

 

  1. More requests for leave days

In many companies, employees have had the freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated or not as long as they are observing the protective measures in the workplace. Those who have been working from home had minimal pressure of being vaccinated.

So far, about 10% of Kenyans have been vaccinated and as per the ‘deadline’, about 20 million people will have to be fully vaccinated.

Those who rely on government services for their daily activities, use public means of transport, and use hotels and bars and have not been vaccinated have started seeing the weight of the mandate and are or will be seeking time out of the office to get vaccinated. Employers should be prepared for these requests depending on the number of employees who have not been vaccinated.

Health facilities might experience an influx of people and if they do not have the capacity to vaccinate all of them, as it has been witnessed in the past, then employees will have to seek even more leave days.

2. Involuntary absenteeism

Other than hesitancy due to misinformation, syringe shortage and inaccessibility of vaccines have also contributed to low vaccination rates in Kenya. Some people are still not aware of when or where to get vaccinated. Some, especially those in rural areas, are aware of the vaccination sites, but the time and effort it takes for them to access the vaccines discourage them from doing so.

Others have reported that the vaccines supplied to the nearest medical facilities do not meet the demand and their efforts of getting vaccinated have been in vain. The government of Kenya is yet to address these matters to satisfactory levels.

The possible effect on the work life is that the employees who are unable to access vaccines within the given leave days for whatever reason will be out of office for a while. If they cannot work remotely as they wait for their turn, then there might be interruption in the flow of work and an additional load for those who will be in offices.

For employers, absenteeism is equivalent to financial loss.

3. Voluntary absenteeism

Some employees can take advantage of the directive to stay away from work because they know that they are subject to payment. They might easily access the vaccines but can go ahead and tell their employers that there are long queues in vaccination sites, lack of vaccines, or challenges in accessing their workplaces.

There are a couple of things that employers can do to prevent such acts. They can seek assistance from third parties in vaccinating their employees. This will ultimately mean lead to less time spent away from the working sites while seeking vaccines.

4. High time consumption

As mentioned above, the cabinet secretary of health stated that people who will not have been vaccinated by the given date will not be able to access public means of transportation. The government is yet to state how the health and transportation sectors will work together to increase vaccination efforts without affecting the normal flow of work.

Many Kenyan residents rely on public means of transportation to access their workplaces. In major cities, traffic is a never-ending hassle, especially in the evening and during rainy seasons. In addition, the public transportation sector cannot get credit for being organized or meeting the needs of residents as soon as they arise. Some people queue for hours, especially in the evening, for buses. If order is not observed and verification process of COVID-19 vaccination simplified while boarding a bus, then many people will spend a lot of time on the road. Work life will be largely affected.

In addition, places where entry will be based on vaccination status will also need a smooth and quick way of verifying vaccination certificates otherwise visitors will spend more time than they are used to access the services.

5. Push to enforce mandatory vaccination policy

In a previous article, we tackled the role of employers in increasing vaccination efforts. To prevent absenteeism from work due to lack of vaccination and support the government in improving immunity, employers might feel cornered to enforce a mandatory vaccination policy.

Many companies are recovering from the adverse effects of the pandemic and cannot afford to miss out on opportunities for growth because some employees are hesitant to take the jab and in consequence have been blocked from accessing essential places or services.

Including a mandatory vaccination section in employment contracts is possible, but this will not come without opposition. For starters, historically, many employees’ unions are against mandatory vaccination as they term it a violation of human rights. Second, those who are already working might not agree to the new rule and informed consent is mandatory for all forms of medical intervention.

On another note, if the law is enforced on new employees, some might cite unlawful discrimination if their reasons for opposing the jab are based on religious and philosophical beliefs, health status, and others. Employers in certain sectors such as health, education, entertainment, hospitality, and retail might be able to defend their claim of mandatory vaccinations, but others might be town between ensuring wellness and avoiding legal risks.

6. Herd immunity and economic recovery

If the mandate will fulfill the action that it was meant to, then the overall positive effect will be herd immunity. Herd immunity will pave the way for more investment and working opportunities and eventually better economic status for companies and the nation. The rate of infection has been low in the last few months, which is a good sign that with more vaccination, we are headed to a good direction.

 

In conclusion,

There are many debates surrounding the topic of mandatory vaccination in Kenya. As the cabinet secretary of health stated, in as much as the rule stands, implementation lies on individuals.