Italian court upholds rule suspending unvaccinated workers without pay

An Italian court on Friday rejected an appeal by 127 public sector workers against rules meaning those who refuse a Covid vaccine are suspended from work without pay.

Italian court upholds rule suspending unvaccinated workers without pay
Anti-vaccine protestors in Rome hold a banner reading ‘my body, my choice’. Italy has mandated vaccination against Covid-19 for many public sector workers since December. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

The Lazio regional administrative court (TAR) ruled that the Italian government was within its rights to suspend civil servants without pay if they failed to comply with the requirement to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The court dismissed an appeal brought by 127 public sector workers including police, healthcare staff and teachers who had been suspended from work without pay after refusing vaccination, newspaper La Stampa reported.

Their appeal centred on the question of whether the vaccine requirement was justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

The court rejected the appeal by stating that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”. 

In December 2021, Italy expanded the number of categories of workers subject to its vaccine mandate to include all workers in Italy’s defence, security, emergency rescue, and juvenile and community justice sectors, as well as police, intelligence officers and prison guards.

The requirement was also extended to administrative staff in healthcare and teaching. Workers in public-facing roles in these sectors had already been subject to a vaccination requirement.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated can be fined and will ultimately face indefinite suspension from work without pay.

In addition, Italy requires all over-50s to be vaccinated, and to show proof of vaccination to enter their workplace in any sector.

The law states that exemptions can only be granted if an employee obtains medical certification stating that taking a Covid vaccine would pose an “established danger to health, in relation to specific documented clinical conditions”.

Find more information about Italy’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

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‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.