22 June 2022 - The Civil Service Commission (CSC) encouraged all eligible government officials and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a protection against the virus.

In CSC Resolution No. 2200239 promulgated on 16 June 2022, and circularized via CSC Memorandum Circular No. 7, s. 2022, the Commission expressed its support to the government’s National Vaccination Deployment Plan and encouraged government agencies to “adopt strategies and incentives to encourage their employees to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination.”

The CSC, however, stressed that no employee shall be compelled to get vaccinated, whether directly or indirectly such as “being discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay and other non-discretionary benefits, or being forced to take a leave of absence chargeable to leave credits.”

On the other hand, the CSC said that unvaccinated employees who are tasked to do onsite work shall undergo Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing and present a negative result thereof, at a frequency to be determined by the head of agency, but “which should be at least once every two weeks” in accordance with IATF Resolution No. 149, s. 2021 issued on 18 November 2021.

The CSC added that Rapid Antigen Tests may be used when RT-PCR testing capacity is insufficient or not immediately available.

The COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees performing onsite work shall be on the employee’s own account, unless the government agency decides to cover the cost/s, subject to availability of funds and the usual accounting rules and regulations.

Government agencies may also opt to place unvaccinated employees under flexible work arrangements.

Availment of excused absence and special leave privileges for COVID-19 booster

In a separate advisory, the CSC encouraged all government officials and employees and their families to get the COVID-19 booster shot to increase their immunity and protection against the COVID-19 virus.

In the advisory, the CSC reiterated its policy allowing government officials and employees to file for excused absence for absences due to COVID-19 vaccination. Under CSC Memorandum Circular No. 16, s. 2021 or the “Interim Guidelines on Absences of Government Officials and Employees Due to COVID-19 Vaccination and/or Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) of COVID-19 Vaccine” issued on 12 November 2021, government officials and employees may avail themselves of the excused absence under the following conditions:

• Absence from work during the day of inoculation of the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including future booster shots. Required documents include proof of vaccination schedule (e.g. vaccination card) and the application of leave of absence to be filed five (5) days prior to the scheduled vaccination date, if applicable; and

• Absence from work due to the required treatment/recuperation period from AEFI of the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including future booster shots.

A maximum of 15 calendar days may be allowed for cases of serious AEFIs which may include hospitalization, persistent or significant disability or incapacity, and life threatening or medically important event or reaction. In addition to the application of leave of absence and copy of vaccination card, the employee must also submit a medical certificate and/or clinical abstract indicating the diagnosis, management done, and number of days of recuperation needed, signed by the attending physician.

On the other hand, a maximum of three (3) calendar days may be allowed for non-serious AEFIs which may include tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching or swelling on the arm where one got the injection; generally feeling unwell; feeling tired (fatigue); chills or feeling feverish; headache; and joint pain or muscle ache. The employee must submit a medical certificate signed by an attending physician at the vaccination center or medical facility where s/he underwent observation due to AEFI.

The guidelines define AEFI as “any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunization and which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of vaccine.”

Absences due to AEFI of COVID-19 vaccine may be charged against the employee’s sick leave credits when the period of treatment/recuperation exceeds the maximum allowable period of absences for the abovementioned conditions.

If the employee has exhausted his/her sick leave credits, Section 56 of the Omnibus Rules on Leave allows for the use of vacation leave credits in lieu of sick leave credits. In case the vacation leave credits have been exhausted, the employee may apply for sick leave of absence without pay.

Government workers who have incurred absences due to COVID-19 vaccination and/or have undergone treatment from AEFI prior to the issuance of CSC MC No. 16, s. 2021 may request for the restoration of the deducted leave credits through their agency’s Human Resource Unit.

Meanwhile, government officials and employees may file an application for Special Leave Privileges on the day of vaccination or booster shot of their children. Under Section 21, Rule XVI of the Omnibus Rules on Leave, as amended, government officials and employees are granted three (3) days of special leave privileges for personal milestones or obligations, which includes attending to parental obligations such as the medical needs of their children. Such special leave privileges are non-cumulative and non-commutative.

Employees applying for special leave privileges shall no longer be required to present proof that they are entitled to avail of such.