Vaccination - what rules apply in an employment relationship?
Most people in Sweden will be offerered vaccination during 2021. But what applies? Can your employer require you to be vaccinated? Annika Wahlström, federal lawyer at SULF, answers som legal questions about vaccination.
Can the employer require you to be vaccinated?
Answer: The short answer to this question is no. According to the Swedish constitution, if you work at a state university or any other public sector employer, you are protected against physical intrusion, for example vaccinations. A state employer can therefore not demand that its employees be vaccinated. If you are employed at a private university, the rules and legislation are less clear, but it is also unlikely that private employers would be deemed as entitled to demand that employees be vaccinated.
If for some reason you do not want to be vaccinated, can the employer take any employment law action, for example reassigning you to other tasks?
Answer: Even though employers cannot force anyone to be vaccinated, they have a responsibility under the Work Environment Act to take all necessary measures to prevent employees from being at risk of ill health or accidents. This means that the employer must act if there is a risk of infection.
If there is a risk of infection, the employer must eliminate the risk if possible. If that is not possible, the employer must limit the risk. In the final instance, the employer must protect employees by through the use of personal protective equipment or other measures.
The risk of infection and spread of infection can be managed in different ways depending on the work in question. Many higher education institutions have already introduced distance learning, digital meetings and work from home. For work that requires an employee to be present at the workplace, it may instead be a question of requiring physical distancing, good ventilation, thorough cleaning and the use of protective equipment. In some workplaces, it may also mean that only vaccinated staff may perform certain tasks. In the higher education sector, this could be the case in educational programmes such as medicine, care and health.
In exceptional cases in specific workplaces, staff who do not wish to be vaccinated could therefore be reassigned and given other work tasks within the framework of their employment until there is no longer a risk of infection. Decisions on such measures may only be taken following consultation and, in some cases, co-determination negotiations with the trade unions.