“This could pave the way for the inclusion of other business segments,” she said. “However, any further development in this area is likely to be limited to commercial activities and employees who are in close contact with large numbers of people as part of their daily work habits.”
“The notice does not mention who is responsible for the cost of PCR testing; however, it is easy to foresee that MoHRE expects that this obligation will fall on employers, as well as any penalties for non-compliance. In any event, employers who are notified need to quickly Take action to ensure they have the necessary arrangements and procedures to ensure compliance by March 28,” she said.
Especially given the UAE’s far-reaching privacy laws, employers must have clear employee policies to record PCR test results and the vaccination status of individual employees, she said.
The UAE’s vaccination program is voluntary and there is no law that states that employers can make vaccination requirements a condition of employment. However, employers in the UAE have a legal obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees, as well as regional laws that require them to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and employees are legally obligated to comply with the health and safety of reasonable instructions given by the employer for this purpose.
Whether an employer requires employees to be vaccinated is a “reasonable directive” will depend on a range of factors, including the nature of the workplace, the type of work and the circumstances of the individual employee, According to Luke Tapp of Pinsent Masons. Additionally, if a vaccination claim is justified, but an employee refuses to be vaccinated, the employer must carefully consider the justification for the refusal to avoid the risk of future claims.
Ruth Stephen said even those employers who were not covered by the new requirements would still be subject to general health and safety law requirements, of which regular testing could form part.
“Employers are legally obligated to ensure the health and safety of their employees under UAE labour law, and testing employees for Covid-19 may be part of this overarching duty,” she said. “To gauge the extent of their responsibility for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace, Employers should conduct a timely risk assessment of factors including how contractual responsibilities are being performed; the level of ‘close contact’ with colleagues and clients; and employee travel arrangements and work.”
“Employee testing and screening is only part of the broader responsibilities and issues that employers are currently considering to protect their people and business interests. As we move into the months of 2021, employers may encounter new and additional issues – such as , federal data privacy laws may be on the way, which in itself may provide employers with a wealth of new employee personal data considerations regarding the lawful processing and storage of employee medical data,” she said.