Covid certificate mandatory to work onsite as of Wednesday in Latvia

On Wednesday, the requirement for holding a Covid-19 certificate of vaccination or recovery comes into force to work onsite in the private sector. Around 60,000 employees will thus be unable to continue work, mostly in the transport and construction sectors, Latvian Radio reported December 15.

When the government decided in the autumn to introduce a mandatory Covid-19 certificate for all on-site workers, vaccination rates were relatively low. Recent data compiled by the Ministry of Economics (EM) shows that the certificate of vaccination against Covid-19 or recovery is already held by around 94% of employees. 

"There are, of course, sectors where the proportion of vaccination still shows a certain risk zone. These include transport, storage, construction and manufacturing industries. In general, however, these vaccination figures have climbed up quickly and well. So there will be no huge apocalypse. At the same time, unfortunately, it is very likely that there will be an increase in the shadow economy in some sectors and some will seek to emigrate," said Jānis Endziņš, chair of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LTRK).

Around 62,000 people are at risk of remaining without work. The transport and storage sectors are the most vulnerable, as 14,600 people or 19% of employees do not have a certificate. Some of these digits are hidden in the fact that long-distance drivers have obtained a vaccine abroad that is not approved in the EU. This situation will make it difficult for the sector, which had a lack of workforce before the Covid-19 crisis, said Aleksandrs Pociluiko, head of the "Latvijas auto" association, representing about half of the international carrier companies in Latvia.

Pociluiko said that certain rules in government rules should be corrected. For example, that remote work counts only at home. In his opinion, a truck driver who is alone would not be considered to be exposed to additional risks. This similarity is also consistent with the considerations of compulsory vaccination in other professions where there is no close daily contact with other people, such as night guards.

However, part of the construction workers are not afraid to remain without work because they will find work beyond the State borders or in the “grey sector” where they always need working hands, said Normunds Grinbergs, head of the Latvian Association of Builders.

He said that vaccination rates are significantly different from business to business. In general, however, the sector is facing difficulties in planning jobs even a few months ahead. Therefore, in a letter to several ministries, the association called for “force majeure” in relation to works for which contracts were concluded by October 9  or at a time when it was not known about the requirement for vaccination for all workers. This would make it possible to eliminate penalties for delays.

The absence of a Covid-19 certificate will not be a valid reason for full-time or up to eight months of unemployment benefits, said the State Employment Agency (NVA). Cabinet regulations since November 25 provide that the absence of a certificate is not an objective reason to quit work.

In a situation where a person will refuse an appropriate job offer twice, the State aid may be revoked, said the senior expert at the NVA Department of Labor Market, Alise Apsīte.

“The absence of a certificate is not an obstacle to obtaining the status of the unemployed person, but customers must take into account the need to actively seek employment during the status of the unemployed person. If, without a Covid-19 certificate, it is not possible to pursue active and successful job searches, the State Employment Agency will have to offer the appropriate work for which the certificate is not required. If a customer with unemployment status is unable to accept such a suitable job offer twice, the State Employment Agency will assess the cancellation of the status of the unemployed person,” explained the NVA spokeswoman.

The transitional rules provide for that people who have begun vaccination before December 15 but not finished yet can continue working with a negative Covid test.

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