Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has caused some confusion in his recent weekly public address when he stated that employers in the Philippines have the “right to refuse” employees who have yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“You have the right to refuse to accept as an employee somebody who is not vaccinated and would go and join the rest of the employees in the factory or whatever workplace you have,” he said in his address.

Duterte’s statements seem to imply that it is legal for employers to reject applicants who have not yet been inoculated. However, this contradicts the statements of his own Cabinet and health officials, as well as local Filipino law that prohibits making vaccinations a pre-condition for employment.

According to the nation’s Republic Act 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021: “vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”

The country’s Department of Labor has also said that there is no real legal basis for employers to require vaccinations as a pre-requisite for employment. In late October, Labor Undersecretary, Ana Dione, affirmed that mandatory vaccines for employment had no basis in law, and thus could not be imposed by companies.

Dione also mentions that employers cannot legally terminate employees for refusing to take the vaccine. The Philippines is already well on its way to welcoming back its unvaccinated workforce back to the workplace. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the department will issue a compliance order to allow all workers to return to offices.

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