Covid certificate to be compulsory in some professions in Latvia

As of 15 November, health, education and social care workers will be required to have a valid Covid-19 certificate of recovery or vaccination, the government decided on Tuesday, September 28.

The government-supported and revised rules provide that the obligation to produce a Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificate would apply for those working on-site at:

  • medical treatment facilities, including pharmacies.
  • long-term social care and social rehabilitation facilities;
  • educational establishments.

The government also decided that the employer would also be able to impose a requirement for vaccination on certain criteria if employees are in contact with customers for a long time or with a large number of customers, or are critical to ensuring the continuity of the business. At the same time, a medical council will be introduced, which will assess individual cases where persons would have reasons to postpone vaccination. 

The transitional period until November 15 has been selected to allow the person to complete the full vaccination course (4 weeks), as well as the entry into force of the vaccination certificate (14 days). From October 11 to November 15, employees in these sectors can perform their job duties if they have a testing certificate.

For workers who have commenced vaccination but have not completed a vaccination course, the RNA or antigen Covid-19 tests shall be provided as part of a State-paid routine screening in accordance with the Covid-19 testing algorithm published on the website of Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC).

The Ministry of Health explained in the amendment annotation that the test for determining Covid-19 infection cannot replace vaccination and does not constitute an equivalent epidemiological safety measure. The test shall be used as a safety measure against the infection of other persons and shall be regarded as an auxiliary tool, but it does not protect the person tested from the disease, as they may become infected at any time during the performance of their job duties. The regulation aims not only at the safety of others but also at job safety.

If the worker has not obtained a vaccination certificate by November 15 or does not have a certificate of recovery, the employer shall have the possibility to restructure the work so that the services can also be provided remotely, if this is possible according to the specific nature of the work.

If the employer cannot allow the employee to fulfill his or her duties because the employee cannot present the required interoperable certificate, the parties to the employment contract may use the solutions specified in the regulatory enactments regulating the employment legal relationship. The employee and employer may amend the contract of employment by mutual agreement. The employee and the employer may terminate the employment relationship by mutual agreement. The employee may also exercise the rights specified in Section 100 of the Labor Law.

It is not specified what the employer is allowed to do if, after 15 November, the employee has still not obtained a Covid-19 certificate.

However, the head of the crisis management group, Jānis Citskovskis, said that the employer is currently allowed to act within the framework of the existing law and that additional regulations should require an amendment of the law and a decision of the Saeima.

At the meeting of the Government, it was also agreed to ask the responsible ministries to draw up guidelines by 11 October for the employer to take action in cases where employees do not fulfill their duties.

The Director-General of the Latvian Employers' Confederation (LDDK), Līga Meņģelsone, said that employers should be given more powers to create a secure working environment, adding that employees of the state administration should be subject to similar rules.

However, the head of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jānis Endzņš, called for the regulatory requirement to be extended to all sectors.

Inga Vanaga, head of the Latvian Education and Science Workers Union (LIZDA) told Latvian Radio that while the union supports vaccination, such a step would only increase the lack of teachers and loads of existing teachers. According to Vanaga, several hundred teachers could leave the profession.

She pointed out that “the greatest risk moment” was associated with those vacancies that would be created as a result of such a decision.

“This is the most fundamental reason for the objection, as the load will increase for today's vaccinated, recovered workers, which is very disproportionate to the vacancies observed in the circumstances of Covid-19 and the professional burn-out rates observed today among those working in the sector,” Vanaga said.

The government also decided that as of 11 October, almost all services and events will be allowed to take place with a Covid-19 certificate for all persons present.

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