The EU Digital Covid Certificate on a smartphone screen outside a bar in Helsinki on 28 October 2021. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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EMPLOYERS in Finland are not allowed to adopt the coronavirus pass as a prerequisite for attending after-work events, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

“The Regional State Administrative Agency’s (AVI) occupational health and safety unit has instructed that employers can’t ask for a coronavirus pass even if you’re talking about recreational events, such as Pikkujoulu parties,” Oona Mölsä, a chief inspector at AVI for Southern Finland, told Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.

Mölsä revealed that the agency has received a number of enquiries about the issue from employers and private individuals.

“The law doesn’t clearly make it possible for companies, organisations or agencies to ask for the coronavirus pass at their events,” said Mölsä.

The pass can presently be required only in two circumstances: when entering the country and when deviating from the restrictions in place. Restaurant operations, for example, are restricted in 12 regions, while a number of regions either have imposed or are planning to impose restrictions on public events. If a company holds a get-together in a restaurant, the restaurant therefore has the option to require the pass to avoid any restrictions on its operations.

The act on communicable diseases does not comment on other circumstances, such as private events, according to Kirsi Ruuhonen, a ministerial advisor at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

“Event organisers are responsible for making sure that their operations are lawful and that they don’t violate equality or data protection regulations, for example,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.

The coronavirus pass was piloted this autumn also in circumstances where restrictions were not in effect. A key feature of the pilots, however, was that showing the pass was voluntary rather than a requirement for entry, reminded Ruuhonen.

Although the same approach could in principle be taken today, demanding and showing the pass at employer-organised events, for example, could pose certain data security problems. “It’s my belief that you can recommend that people should have the coronavirus pass,” said Ruuhonen.

Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday pointed out that the legislation does not prohibit people from organising a get-together for their friends to require the pass, as the scope of the equality act, for example, does not extend into the realm of private life. It would nonetheless be better to recommend rather than require the pass given that it contains sensitive health information of others, viewed Mölsä.

A private event is not automatically part of private life, however. Some event organisers may be bound by the equality act even if the event itself does not fall within the scope of restrictions adopted by AVIs.

Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kristina Stenman declined to speculate in detail on the types of events where the pass could be required under the equality act.

“There are so many different private events after all. I wouldn’t want to speculate on that one way or the other,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat. “However, the vaccinations are free. Except for those who can’t for health reasons, everyone has the opportunity to [get vaccinated].”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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