The COVID-19 vaccination campaign is now well underway and some of your employees have already received their invitation to be vaccinated. This raises the question of whether they can take time off work to be vaccinated and if so, under what conditions.
A draft law to grant the employee the right to a leave of absence (circumstantial leave) for the administration of a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus has been deposited in the Chamber by the government. This leave of absence has not yet come into force. We are waiting for the publication of the law in the Belgian Official Gazette.
But what about employees who will already be vaccinated before this law comes into force?
"Vaccination" leave of absence coming soon…
In order to facilitate the vaccination campaign and achieve a vaccination coverage of at least 70% of the population, the government has deposited a draft law in the Chamber to grant the employee the right to a leave of absence (circumstantial leave) for the administration of a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus. This draft law is still subject to change.
What does the draft law provide?
The employee has the right to be absent from work while retaining his normal remuneration in order to receive a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus for the time required for the vaccination.
The employee shall use the leave for the purpose for which it is granted.
The employee must provide proof if requested by the employer. Submission of the confirmation of the appointment to be present at a given time at a place where the vaccination is administered constitutes sufficient proof. If the confirmation does not mention when the employee must be present at a place where the vaccination is administered, the invitation must be submitted.
The employer may only use the obtained information for the purpose of organising the work and ensuring proper administration of wages. He is not allowed to take a copy of the appointment confirmation in any form or to manually transcribe the information it contains, except for the time of the appointment. He may only record the employee's absence as "leave of absence". It is forbidden to record the reason for the leave of absence and/or to record that the employee has health problems.
When does it come into force?
This draft law provides that the leave of absence for vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus will apply from the date of publication of the law in the Belgian Official Gazette.
The leave of absence to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus is therefore not yet in force.
In the meantime?
What about the employee who will be vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus before the law granting a leave of absence comes into force?
From a strictly legal point of view, and unless otherwise provided for by the joint committee or the company, the employee cannot demand payment from his employer for the hours of absence devoted as a consequence of the vaccination.
However, the government's intention is to facilitate and encourage vaccination against COVID-19 as much as possible. That is why it has deposited a draft law granting the employee a leave of absence to get vaccinated. It would therefore be difficult to defend the idea that only employees who are vaccinated from the day the law comes into force should be able to take time off work while retaining their remuneration.
In this context, for employees who are vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus before the date of entry into force of the law, the employer could provide for the granting of a leave of absence in his company, according to the same rules as those provided for in the draft law.
In this respect, he will communicate to the employees by e-mail or via the company's intranet:
- the granting rules described above (in the section "What does the draft law provide?"), namely: absence for the time required, warning, purposes for which the leave of absence is to be used and proof,
- the fact that they are applicable as long as the law has not come into force,