In recent weeks, there have been an increasing number of requests from employees who are threatened by the pressure to get vaccinated from their place of work. A daycare worker for the elderly is forced to take leave because she did not agree to be vaccinated, asylum seekers - a group to whom vaccination information efforts have as yet not reached them - are required to be vaccinated as a condition for their continued employment in their place of work. And of course, teachers, the National Cabinet of Experts for the Corona virus has declared the demand that all teachers be vaccinated, or they will not be allowed to return to teaching.
As Kav LaOved and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel stated last week, these demands are not legal and we fear this is a slippery slope that can lead to infringing on employees' privacy and intrusion into their lives. In our opinion, it is not possible to replace proper information about the importance of vaccines and their safety, with measures of pressure against employees who have not as yet been vaccinated, certainly when it comes to populations who are already suffering from information barriers.

Following the announcement of the demands of the National Coronavirus Expert Cabinet regarding teaching staff, we issued an appeal, together with The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, to the Ministers of Health and Education. In our appeal, we declared that this stipulation infringes, in a disproportionate way, on the fundamental right to autonomy and privacy of teachers, and can even serve as an excuse and encouragement for similar demands on the part of employers in the private sector.

We quickly became aware that the announcement relating to teachers had resulted in a variety of threatening measures by private sector employers toward employees who were undecided about the vaccine. "The decision whether to accept a vaccine or not is at the core of the right to privacy and autonomy," we reminded the Cabinet of Experts, "that every person has the right to decide what happens to their own body and no other person can intervene without his/her consent."

We emphasized that an attempt to exert pressure on an employee, to the detriment of his working conditions so that he "agrees" to receive a vaccine, constitutes a serious violation of his rights. To this end, after approaching the Ministries of Health and Education, we followed up with a letter to the Attorney General of Israel, demanding publication of a statement clarifying that such requirements of employers vis a vis employees regarding vaccination are illegal based on the current legal framework.

The issue of vaccines is clearly a very charged one, also from the other direction. A worker in the 38th week of her pregnancy, whose colleagues are not vaccinated, contacted us because she was afraid to go to work. Another employee, who is part of an at-risk population, said she was afraid to go to work because the precautionary rules in her place of work were not observed.

Indeed, this is a complex situation in which workers' rights are only one layer of the many layers facing decision-makers. However, the welfare of workers is not always considered. Throughout the year the education system workforce was not increased as required. There weren't any discussions regarding the at-risk populations and their concerns relating to their place of work and these workers were not protected from dismissal during the pandemic.

At-risk workers and older workers are likely to find themselves outside the labor market forever and no one is addressing the problems they are facing. Many women, for example, have had to give up working days during the closures, especially in the education system. Many workers have suddenly found themselves faced with no job security and no protection.

At KLO we are determined to continue to fight for the rights of the worker. We will continue to remind the consultants, the experts, the decision makers - all those whose salaries are guaranteed at the end of the month – of the basic needs and rights of the employees and the distress that they continue to suffer.