Morgan Stanley employees and clients who have not received their COVID-19 vaccine will be barred from entering the bank’s New York offices, according to an internal memo seen by the Financial Times. As such, Morgan Stanley wants to get employees back to the workplace as soon as possible and get rid of other coronavirus measures, such as social distancing and the requirement to wear a face mask.
‘If you can go to a restaurant, you can come to the office,’ CEO James Gorman announced last week. Non-vaccinated employees will have to continue to telework reports the BBC based on an anonymous source. Even today, the bank has workplaces reserved for vaccinated people. And BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is rolling out a similar policy.
Will it also inspire Belgian companies to impose similar conditions, now that teleworking will no longer be mandatory from 1 July? And can an employer deny employees access to the workplace because he or she has not been vaccinated?
Privacy vs safe workplace
‘Both the competent government service and the Data Protection Authority state very clearly that an employer may not ask whether an employee has been vaccinated or not and therefore cannot link any negative consequences to this,’ says Geert Vermeir, Legal Expert at SD Worx. ‘For them, the right to privacy clearly takes precedence.’ Similarly, coronavirus tests can only be offered on a voluntary basis.
But in the absence of a clear legal framework, it is all based on interpretation, says Vermeir.
Employment Lawyer Filip Tilleman equally does not believe that there is a conclusive legal answer yet. Should an employee be denied access to the workplace or even fired for not getting vaccinated and should the case consequently go to court, the judge will find himself in a ‘very precarious situation’. It will entail a radical clash of two fundamental and equally valid values: the employer’s duty to provide a safe working environment – well-being at work is a legal obligation – and the employee’s right to privacy. Especially in a workplace where everyone works shoulder to shoulder and where no distance can be maintained, this will bring matters to a head.’