Company warns staff who are not exempt that MTN 'will not be obliged to continue the employment contract.'
MTN Group, Africa's largest telecoms service provider, announced on Monday that it will begin enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for its staff in January. In the face of the fourth wave of COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant, MTN has joined a growing number of South African companies who have imposed a vaccine mandate in order to ensure a safe working environment, but this has exposed them to legal risks. MTN's move comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa said last month that the government was considering making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for citizens to enter specific areas and activities. Last month, COSATU, South Africa's largest trade union, stated that its view on mandatory vaccination had "evolved" and that it now supports such mandates as a means of curbing the pandemic.
The new variant has resulted in significant vaccination necessity throughout the country and on the continent, where vaccination rates are among the slowest in the world. "MTN Group's new vaccine policy is a measure to meet MTN's legal obligations in regard to providing a safe workplace," MTN said in a statement. "It (vaccine mandate) also recognizes the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy and/or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds," it said, adding that staff who do not have a valid reason for not getting vaccinated will be laid off. The policy will start in January. "The science is clear. Vaccination against COVID-19 reduces rates of serious infections, hospitalisation, and death," MTN group president and CEO Ralph Mupita said in a statement.