On 9 March 2021 we issued our first newsletter on the vaccine and policies to consider as well as understanding that not all employees are able or wish to have the vaccine.
As we know the Government announced that the UK are ahead of the vaccination programme and are just ready to start for the over 45’s (and in particular certain areas of the country are ready to go and actually are inviting over 30’s) for their first vaccines. We have seen that the top groups including those deemed as clinically extremely vulnerable are now receiving their second vaccinations which is superb news for everyone.
In the March newsletter we sent a link to the ICO regarding data protection and again would encourage all employers to have a read of the robust guidance.
Here is the link:
We have set out some bullet points to consider for returning to the workplace, safety, and vaccines.
- There are no statutory provisions that could force individuals to be vaccinated. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 specifically states that members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations.
- Employers cannot physically force an employee to take the vaccine and, as the vaccine is not (currently) commercially available, employers cannot control access to or force an employee to take the vaccine.
- From a health and safety perspective, Employers must take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce risk in the workplace to the lowest practicable level – as you have been doing during the pandemic by, for example, enforcing social distancing, enhanced cleaning, etc. but, as the situation currently stands, this would not extend to requiring (or providing) vaccinations.
ACAS have provided some guidance around Employers supporting their staff. Interestingly, they are encouraging Employers to consider in paying normal pay to staff who following their vaccine become unwell to encourage employees to have the vaccine.
Employers should support staff in getting the coronavirus vaccine once it’s offered to them.
There’s no law that says people must have the vaccine, even if an employer would prefer someone to have it. There may be some people who are advised not to have the vaccine, for example for health reasons.
There’s a chance someone might still get or spread coronavirus if they’ve had a vaccine. Even once people are vaccinated, they must still follow:
- working safely guidelines
- shielding guidelines
Supporting staff to get the vaccine
Employers may find it useful to talk with their staff about the vaccine and share the benefits of being vaccinated.
It could help to discuss things like:
- the government’s latest vaccine health information
- when staff might be offered the vaccine
- if staff will need time off work to get vaccinated
- pay for time off work related to the vaccine
- whether the employer plans to collect data on staff vaccinations, and if so, how this will follow data protection law (UK GDPR)
- whether anyone needs to be vaccinated to be able to do their job
To encourage staff to get the vaccine, employers might consider:
- paid time off for vaccination appointments
- paying staff their usual rate of pay if they’re off sick with vaccine side effects, instead of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- not counting vaccine-related absences in absence records or towards any ‘trigger’ system the organisation may have
Talking with staff can help:
- agree a vaccine policy that’s appropriate for both staff and the organisation
- support staff to protect their health
- keep good working relationships
- avoid disputes in the future
Other points to consider
- The Government will advise when it is as part of their road map to commence returning staff to work who have been currently working from home, and this includes those who were deemed as extremely clinically vulnerable and most likely placed on furlough leave if their role could not be performed from home. This review will not be until June, and the current guidance remains “work from home where possible”.
- An employer’s vaccination policy is likely to be weakened if unvaccinated agency staff, contractors, visitors and other third parties are allowed into the workplace. Employers will need to consider whether visitors are encouraged to have been vaccinated too and how this is communicated to staff.
- Once travel restrictions are lifted, employers will need to consider vaccinating employees who travel for work in the same way they may need other vaccinations.
- Employers with international offices will need to consider how a vaccination policy will be applied where other vaccination rollout programmes are in operation.
- Differences of opinion are likely to arise both remotely and in the workplace with pro-vaccine staff and those more sceptical and refusing to have the vaccine. Employers should proactively intervene in such disputes and take steps to avoid potential conflict.
- Employers should keep up to date with latest advice from the UK government and maintain open and honest communication with employees.