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Several decisions by Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin on employee vaccinations

Employee vaccination cover at the Kuopio Psychiatry Centre

Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin issued a reprimand to an employer that had issued a written warning to an employee working at the Kuopio Psychiatry Centre for failing to take a vaccination. The grounds for the warning were that the complainant did not have vaccination cover in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Act despite the employer’s request and that the complainant had no health-related reasons for not being vaccinated. The warning also stated that if the complainant engages in similar behaviour in the future, the employment relationship will be terminated.

The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to personal liberty and integrity. The personal integrity of the individual shall not be violated, nor shall anyone be deprived of liberty arbitrarily or without a legally permissible reason. This provision is closely related to the protection of privacy, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. According to the Act on the Status and Rights of Patients, there must be a mutual understanding with the patient concerning treatment.

Under the Communicable Diseases Act, vaccinations are voluntary. The provisions of the Constitution and the Act on the Status and Rights of Patients mean that the employee is entitled to decide whether to take these vaccinations. However, the Communicable Diseases Act obliges employers to ensure that in social and health care units, the customer and patient areas where care is provided to customers or patients who are medically assessed as vulnerable to severe consequences due to infectious diseases are staffed with employees who have vaccination cover as referred to in the Act, and people who have inadequate vaccination cover may only be used for specific reasons.

Warnings can only be issued for breaches of the obligations deriving from an employment relationship or as a consequence of neglecting such obligations. Refusing a vaccination does not constitute negligence of the obligations deriving from an employment relationship, nor the breach of such obligations. A lack of vaccinations in itself cannot be grounds for issuing a warning. 

The North Savo Hospital District informed the Parliamentary Ombudsman that it would withdraw the written warnings issued to the complainant and all other employees for neglecting to take influenza vaccinations. The Hospital District also stated that it had previously altered its vaccination practices and that the influenza vaccination is voluntary for employees.

The full text (in Finnish) of decision 1678/2018 is available on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi.

Employer’s right to process vaccination information 

The complaints received by Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin concerning vaccinations also revealed problems with the collection and processing of vaccination information. Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin states that employers cannot require employees to provide information about their vaccination cover or contracted illnesses in writing or on forms. It is sufficient for the employee to make an oral declaration to the employer. If an employer requires an employee to declare their vaccinations in writing on a form, the requirement is unlawful.

The full text (in Finnish) of Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin’s decision 3050/2018 is available on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi.

Proposal to expand the Communicable Diseases Act to care provided at home

Due to the number of complaints related to vaccinations, Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin considers it justified to propose to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health that the Communicable Diseases Act be clarified. The proposal requests that the Act be amended to state that home care, home nursing and home hospitals where treatment is provided to customers or patients who are medically assessed as vulnerable to severe consequences due to infectious diseases should only be allowed to use people with inadequate vaccination cover for specific reasons. The full text (in Finnish) of proposal 2273/2018 is available on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi.

See also the following decisions on the website:
2345/2018
2048/2018
6650/2018 and
decision 6160/2018 by Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen on employees’ vaccination cover in health care for prisoners

For further information on decisions concerning vaccinations, contact Principal Legal Advisor Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen. Tel: +358 9 432 3377.