The Swedish Labor Court has ruled that a private employer who introduced vaccination requirements for its staff and suspended three unvaccinated nursing assistants without pay during the coronavirus crisis did nothing wrong.
It was Aleris Närsjukvård that introduced a “vaccination policy” during covid-19, requiring all staff working in close contact with patients in a geriatric ward to be vaccinated with the experimental vaccines.
Several employees were severely affected by the vaccine requirement, and three of the nursing assistants also opted out of the covid vaccine – resulting in the health care company suspending them without pay in December 2021 on the grounds that they were no longer considered available to the employer due to their unwillingness to be injected.
In the fall of 2022, the workers’ union, Kommunal, began to pursue the issue, arguing that the workers were indeed at the employer’s disposal, that they had the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, and that they were also entitled to be paid. However, the Labor Court has now made its decision – and ruled in favor of the healthcare company.
“The content of the vaccination policy was in line with the recommendations of the authorities for personnel involved in patient care. The company wanted to achieve the highest level of protection for the most vulnerable patients. The reason for implementing the vaccination policy was that the company wanted to minimize the risk of infection and serious illness in its operations. Against this background, the company’s interest weighs very heavily”, they wrote.
They also claim that Aleri’s vaccination requirement was made after “careful consideration and was based on recommendations from FHM, which means that it can be said to be based on science and proven experience”.
“Less intrusive measures would have resulted in a greater risk of infection, although the effect is difficult to quantify. In the Labor Court’s view, the policy was proportionate. In other words, the company’s interests outweigh those of the employees”, it said, adding that all claims for wages, vacation pay, holiday pay and general damages for breach of the collective agreement “must therefore be dismissed”.
The Labor Court also based its ruling on an earlier, unrelated case in the European Court of Justice, which concluded that a private employer has the right to require employees to undergo drug testing – which the Labor Court interpreted to mean that there is also a legal basis for mandatory vaccinations in the workplace.
– Peeing into a jar is one thing. In our case, the employee was told that he had to be vaccinated. It is a kind of medical intervention that the employer demands, says Anne Alfredsson, union lawyer for Kommunal in Läkartidningen.
– They say that the employer’s interests are paramount, without any deeper reasoning, she explains, adding that she is disappointed that the court did not consider how serious this kind of intervention in the employee’s integrity really is.