What if employees refuse to be vaccinated?

Wednesday April 21 2021
By Guest Writer

The Covid-19 vaccine arrived with the vulnerable group  of people  such as the elderly taking the lead for the initial vaccination programme.  It might take a while before the entire population including those in employment is vaccinated. When we get there, it will be unchartered territory for employers and employees. 

The vaccination for the working population will raise a lot of issues, ethical, practical and legal therefore, employers need to think of  governing policies. 

It’s important for employees to know what an organisation’s stand on the vaccination programme is. Some countries have made vaccination mandatory but in Uganda, it is not the case and there is no indication so far. This means it will not be  wise for employers to insist on employees’  vaccination without their consent as this may raise legal issues.  However, employers can play an important role in encouraging employees to take their vaccines when the time comes.

Employers need to communicate the benefits of a safe workplace although ultimately, it will be the individuals’ decision. 

I believe most employees will be keen on taking  up the opportunity to vaccinate , however there will also be a minority who will be reluctant or even refuse to take the vaccine, and yet it’s understandable that employers will want as many employees to be vaccinated. 

For this reason, employers should spearhead discussions, consultations and conversations on vaccination with their work force. Educate employees in order to help them make informed decisions at the end of the day as well as address potential stigmatisation for employees who choose not to take the vaccine. 


Any hesitancy by employees to take the vaccine should be appreciated in the wider context of what people have been living through for more than a year leading to high levels of anxiety.  There is increased need for careful and sensitive management as well as empathy in the workplace. 

Managers need to be briefed on the policy available around vaccination awareness campaign and potential concerns as well as questions they may want to deal with if appropriately passed by the employer such as time off for employees to take their vaccine  appointments.

In conclusion, with the vaccine now available, the day looks brighter because it plays a vital role in helping the workforce return to a work life that resembles what we enjoyed before the pandemic, however, there is still uncertainty at play. 

Organisations need to move consciously and carefully because having an effective vaccination programme will have a huge effect on combating Covid-19 in the workplace. Organisations need to continue to do everything they have been doing to secure a Covid-19 free workplace and with a mixed workforce of those vaccinated and those not vaccinated while some may never be vaccinated, organisations should continue to support and manage their workforce not just safely and more effectively but also with inclusion.

Dr Caroline Sekiwano

Human resource and organisational, development advisor.