Hungary: Can an employer obligate an employee to be vaccinated against the coronavirus?
At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, several countries have begun scheduled vaccination of their citizens. The next chapter against the fight of the epidemic has arrived.
This new chapter poses enormous challenges to society: should the vaccination be mandatory or be up to individuals to decide? Translated into the language of law, the dilemma is whether the individual’s right to self-determination enjoys priority over the legitimate interest of society.
The law provides an opportunity to restrict an individual’s right to self-determination if the public interest requires. However, the right to self-determination as a fundamental right stated in the Constitution can only be restricted by law. The legal view is consistent, namely that mandatory vaccination could be justified in society.
According to this legal logic, in Hungary mandatory vaccinations are regulated under the Health Act. However, COVID -19 has not yet been declared as a mandatory vaccination.
Let’s take a look at whether an employer can require an employee to be vaccinated without the COVID -19 vaccine becoming a general mandatory vaccination.
According to the Labour Code, the employer is responsible for meeting the requirements for safety at work and is therefore obligated to minimize the risk of an employee becoming ill. Under the Safety at Work Act, the employer may also apply health prevention measures if necessary. The question arises as to whether a preventive measure applied legally could make COVID -19 vaccination mandatory for the employee.
The employer may not obligate the employee to be vaccinated without legal authorization. The Health Act states that the competence of a minister – and not employers ‒ is required to make a particular vaccination mandatory as a condition of employment in certain jobs. This legal hierarchy and logic did not change at the time of the epidemic: an employer cannot legally prescribe COVID -19 vaccination for employees.
In general, an employer can decide that they also want to protect their employees with a vaccine and provide them with the vaccination at their own expense. However, even in this case they cannot make vaccination mandatory. An employee who does not want an optional vaccination may refuse it and will not suffer any disadvantage in connection with their employment.
As our article well shows, the dilemma is extraordinary, and it will not be easy to find appropriate answers to the social and legal questions that arise in connection with vaccination.
Source: Act I of 2012 on the Labour Code
Act XCII of 1993 on Safety at Work
Act CLIV of 1997 on Health