Take the jab or be reassigned, Mondorf Spa tells staff
Staff working with vulnerable patients at the Mondorf spa must get a Covid-19 shot or be assigned new tasks, the head of the facility in the south of the country said on Tuesday, raising the prospect that employers could make vaccinations mandatory "through the backdoor".
Just eight out of the 30 employees who work in the spa's rehabilitation clinic had not yet taken a vaccine when the spa decided to make it mandatory in order for them to continue to do their work, Mondorf Domaine Thermal board president Paul Hammelmann told the Luxembourg Times in an interview.
"For most people it was no problem, others, though an absolute minority, were more obstinate", he said when asked how staff reacted to the news that vaccinations became mandatory.
If employees refuse, they will be moved to a department where they have no contact with patients, Hammelmann said. The only other option for the small group of staff to continue to work with patients was to take a rapid antigen test every day or a PCR test every four days, at the company's expense.
The practice at the Mondorf spa raises questions about how much pressure employers can put on staff to take medication. There is no basis in law for mandatory vaccinations in Luxembourg and involuntary treatment is widely regarded across the world as violating basic human rights.
Employers have the right to move staff to another post company for health and safety reasons. But this could lead them to impose vaccinations "through the back door", according to Nadia Chouhad, an employment lawyer, as some staff might opt for the jab to avoid the hassle.
"If the question is whether an employer can compel their employees to get vaccinated, the answer is no. This would infringe with everyone's liberty to (choose) to be vaccinated, which would be an ethical issue that will need a legislative solution", Chouhad said in an interview. Employers also do not have the right to fire someone for refusing the jab, she said.
Throughout the vaccine rollout the government has said that vaccinations remain strictly voluntary, the ministry of labour told the Luxembourg Times.
Spa cites precedent
A recent judgement by the European Court of Human Rights strengthened the Mondorf spa's view it had taken the right decision, Hammelmann said.
Last month, the top human rights court ruled in favour of the Czech republic, which can expel children from schools if their parents refuse to let them have mandatory inoculations against hepatitis and tetanus. The state can also fine parents if they refuse to participate in the vaccination programmes.
“The verdict by the European Court of Human Rights encourages me”, said Hammelmann, who is also a barrister. “I have received calls and emails from care and retirement home directors who congratulated me on the decision and said they would do the same.”.
Luxembourg's care homes have been particularly severely hit by the coronavirus, with 43% of the country's overall deaths occurring in these facilities, health minister Paulette Lenert and family minister Corinne Cahen said in response to a parliamentary question on Tuesday, raising calls to make vaccinations mandatory in that sector.
The Chambre de Commerce and FEDIL lobby groups are not aware of any other companies who have made vaccinations compulsory, they said.