Yesterday, parliament approved the draft act granting employees a right to leave in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The draft act applies to all employees and employers, both in the private and the public sector. However, in the public sector it only applies to contractual employees. For civil servants, a service exemption is often foreseen.

In order to encourage employees to get vaccinated as much as possible, this draft act provides that workers are entitled to paid leave, by analogy with the regulation on short leave (klein verlet (NL) or petit chômage (FR)).

1. How does this work in practice?

  • Employees have the right to be absent from work without loss of pay in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They have this right for the time necessary to be vaccinated (the time necessary for the actual vaccination and the time necessary for travelling to and from the place of vaccination).
  • If the employee receives a vaccine for which more doses are required, the right exists for each of the necessary doses.
  • To be able to exercise this right, the employee must inform his employer in advance, as soon as he is aware the moment of vaccination.
  • The employee must provide proof if the employer requests for it. The submission of the confirmation of the appointment to be present at a specific time and place of vaccination, shall constitute sufficient proof. If the confirmation does not mention the time and place of vaccination, the invitation must be submitted.

2. Attention for the protection of employees’ personal data

It goes without saying that de employer will thus have access to sensitive personal data, in particular to information relating to the employee’s health status. The Data Protection Authority had already issued an advice in this regard, which has been broadly included in the draft act. Therefore, the employer must respect the following measures:

  • The employer may only process the personal data for the purpose of organising work and ensuring proper payroll administration;
  • With the exception of the time of the appointment, the employer is not allowed to take a copy of the appointment confirmation or to transcribe the information;
  • The employer must book the absence as a short leave according to the normal code or entry, without mentioning the reason for the absence or the existence of health problems.

This act will in any case be valid until 31 December 2021 and may even be extended to 30 June 2022 following the advice of the National Labour Council. However, we still have to wait for its publication in the Belgian Official Journal.