24 November 2021 - Absences of government workers due to COVID-19 vaccination may be considered as excused absence.

This is pursuant to the interim guidelines issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) through 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”.

The issuance provides for the treatment of absences incurred by government officials and employees during the day of the inoculation of COVID-19 vaccine and/or the required treatment or recuperation period from any AEFI of COVID-19 vaccine. 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.”

The guidelines remind all government workers of their responsibility to adopt necessary measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the public sector workplaces. It states that “COVID-19 vaccination is considered as one of the major strategies to complement the existing measures and practices to mitigate the spread and reduce morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19.”

Excused absence

CSC MC No. 16, s. 2021 provides the following conditions where excused absence may be considered:

  • 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; 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.

Leave credits

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.

Additional guidelines

The guidelines also enumerate the responsibilities of the heads of agencies through their respective HR units.

These responsibilities include maintaining a database of workers inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine; establishing or designating a unit that will perform the functions of a Workplace Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (as stated under the 2020 Revised IRR of R.A. 11332); monitoring the treatment of absences due to COVID-19 vaccination and/or the required treatment/recuperation from AEFI; ensuring that efficiency and productivity work standards are met; submitting a report to the CSC Regional or Field Office concerned on the number of workers who availed of excused absences; and ensuring that the agency has contingency plans in case large number of employees suffer AEFI of COVID-19 vaccine and other similar incidents.

These guidelines shall apply to all government officials and employees regardless of status of appointment (permanent, temporary, provisional, substitute, coterminous, casual, contractual or fixed term) including local elective officials.

It shall take effect retroactively on 1 March 2021, the official rollout of the vaccination drive in the Philippines. It shall remain in full force and effect during the period of state of calamity as declared under Proclamation No. 1218 dated 10 September 2021 issued by the President of the Philippines, or one (1) year after the government has declared the completion of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program.