The Latvian parliament on Thursday (4 November) allowed businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or transfer to remote work, as the country battles one of the worst COVID-19 waves in European Union.
About 61% of Latvian adults are fully vaccinated, less than the European Union average of 75%.
The country was the first in EU to return to a lockdown this autumn as COVID-19 cases spiked, and has asked other EU members for medical help as makeshift COVID-19 facilities are installed in halls and garages of its hospitals.
The new law allows businesses to suspend the unvaccinated without pay if they refuse to either get the COVID-19 jab or, if possible, to get transferred to remote work. They can then fire the employees if they do not get the vaccine in three months of the suspension.
“There is a sufficient reason to believe that such person is not suitable for the position”, the Latvian government wrote in a submission to the parliament, explaining the reasoning.
The new rules will take effect on 15 November as Latvia emerges from the lockdown, and there are exceptions for those with medical reason to not vaccinate, such as the recent survivors of the disease.
Previously, the vaccine mandate only applied only to workers in healthcare, education, and social care, the Latvian public broadcaster reported.