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COVID-19: vaccination of employees and virus containment in the workplace

On 6 April 2021, social partners in Italy, which included the government, employers and employee representatives signed shared protocols for the activation of vaccination points in workplaces and for updating measures to control and contain the spread of the virus. At the same time, for health professionals and health care workers, the passage of Decree-Law no. 44 of 1 April 2021 specifically provided for vaccination obligations.

Vaccination in the workplace

The Protocol signed on 6 April 2021 by the government, employers and trade unions allows for the implementation of company plans aimed at activating extraordinary vaccination points in workplaces.
Employers, regardless of how many employees they have, can implement business plans for creating extraordinary points of vaccination against COVID-19 on the job for workers who have voluntarily requested inoculations with the support or coordination of the relevant trade associations.

When drawing up plans, each company must consult the Committee for the application and verification of the rules contained in the shared protocol for updating the measures to control and contain the spread of the virus in the workplace. With the support of the company doctor or other company bodies, it will be necessary to take into account the specific nature of the production unit and the conditions for exposure.
Employers can also propose these plans through their representative organisations.
When submitting company plans, the employer must specify the number of vaccines required for its employees, in order to allow the Health Authority to take the necessary steps for planning and distribution.
The costs for implementing and managing the business plans and for the vaccinations will be covered entirely by the employer, while the supply of the vaccines, the devices required for vaccinations (e.g. syringes, needles), the provision of training tools and the registration of vaccinations are covered by Regional Health Services.
Workers shall be provided vaccinations on a voluntary basis. Their personal data and any health-related information collected must be protected and managed according to data-protection laws, avoiding any form of discrimination.

The company doctor will provide workers with adequate information about the benefits and risks of vaccinations, creating the basis of informed consent, and on the specific type of vaccines available. A company doctor should be on hand during vaccinations to provide preventive triage (if necessary) and to ensure the protection and the confidentiality of health data.
The vaccine can only be administered by healthcare workers and carried out in suitable premises.
Article 3 of Decree-Law no. 44 of 1 April 2021 expressly exempts healthcare workers from criminal liability for adverse events arising from a vaccination.
As an alternative to in-company vaccinations, employers may enter into agreements with private healthcare facilities that meet the requirements for vaccination. Such agreement can also be organised by relevant trade associations. In this case, each company will cover the costs, except for the supply of vaccines, which the Regional Health Services will be responsible for.
Employers who are not obliged to appoint a company doctor or who cannot make use of private health facilities can seek the services of the health facilities of the National Institute for the Prevention of Accidents at Work (INAIL). In this case, INAIL will cover the costs.

The time required for the medical examination is treated as working time.

Containment of the spread of COVID-19 virus in the workplace

Furthermore, the Protocol for Containing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace was updated on 6 April 2021, and takes into account the measures already covered in the shared Protocols signed after the declaration of the state of emergency, on 14 March and 24 April 2020.
Failure to implement the Protocol and the absence of conditions ensuring adequate levels of protection for employees will result in a suspension of activities until safety conditions are restored.
In order to allow companies in all sectors to implement these measures and the consequent securing of the workplace, it is possible to resort to remote work, extraordinary organisational solutions, and social safety measures (e.g. social distancing, hygiene protocols) with a consequent reduction or suspension of work activity.

In this context, the Protocol encourages prior discussion with trade union representatives present in the workplace and, in the case of small enterprises, with territorial representatives, so that each measure adopted can be shared and made more effective by the contribution of the people at work, in particular the Workers' Safety Representatives (RLS) and the Territorial Workers' Safety Representatives (RLST), taking into account each production and territorial situation.


Mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers


In order to protect public health and maintain adequate safety conditions in the provision of care and assistance, Decree Law No 44 of 1 April 2021 provides – until 31 December 2021 – for free vaccinations for the prevention of infection by COVID-19 to health professions and workers who carry out their activities in health, social and health care facilities (both public and private), pharmacies, parapharmacies and professional offices.

Vaccinations are an essential requirement for the workers listed above. Vaccinations for these workers are not mandatory and can be omitted or postponed only in the event of an assessed health risk in relation to specific documented and proven clinical conditions.
Employers of health care workers must forward the list of their employees to the region, which, through vaccination information services, checks the vaccination status of each person on the list.
In the event of unjustified non-compliance with the vaccination requirement, the local health authority will immediately inform the worker and the employer.
Upon receiving this notice, the employer will assign unvaccinated employees, where possible, to tasks that do not involve interpersonal contact or the risk of spread of infection in any other form, even if the unvaccinated workers have lesser responsibilities than other employee. In these cases, the employee's salary will correspond with the level of activity performed.

When assignment to different duties is not possible, the employee will not be granted pay until 31 December 2021 (or until the completion of the national vaccination plan).

Authors

Portrait of Fabrizio Spagnolo
Fabrizio Spagnolo
Partner
Rome
Portrait of Federico Pisani
Federico Pisani
Associate
Rome