Now that the UK has approved three vaccines for covid-19, the government is currently in the process of offering it to the public according to its priority-based strategy and is dedicated to the target of vaccinating all adults (those who accept the vaccine) by the autumn of this year.
The message is clear; the vaccine is the best chance of returning to some form of normality. However, there are implications for employers.
TO WHAT EXTENT WILL THE VACCINES ALLOW A RETURN TO NORMAL WORKING CONDITIONS?
It remains to be seen how quickly vaccines will permit coronavirus restrictions to be lifted. You will need to keep up to date with all guidance coming from the government. It’s likely to take some time to vaccinate the entirety of the UK population, which means that we may yet need to live under certain levels of restriction for some time.
However, as more people are vaccinated, it can be assumed that the government will consider lifting restrictions gradually.
CAN THE VACCINE BE OFFERED AS A WORK PERK IN THE SAME WAY AS THE FLU VACCINE OFTEN IS?
It has yet to be confirmed if the vaccine will become available privately. It is currently in extreme demand worldwide and the government suggests it will carefully monitor how and when it is distributed.
That said, as more people are vaccinated, covid-19 will hopefully become less of a threat. At this point, companies may have the opportunity to seek private vaccinations. This is more likely to happen as the vaccines need to be administered in more than once dose.
“The vaccine is the best chance of returning to some form of normality. However, there are implications for employers”
CAN I MAKE EMPLOYEES GET THE VACCINE BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK? IF SO, HOW CAN THIS BE ENFORCED?
Currently, covid-19 vaccines are not mandatory. Despite this, there may be some industry sectors that may implement a requirement for its staff to have the vaccine for safety reasons. This could apply to operators in the care sector, for example.
In other workplaces, such as offices or retail, it may be more difficult to put in place such a restriction because the workplace has the ability to have employees working from home. This could apply to front-of-house clinic staff or those who aren’t client-facing, such as a social media manager. The same logic applies if you are able to maintain social distancing and mitigate the risk. However, it’s reasonable to guess that a requirement for clinic staff who perform treatments to have the vaccine before returning to work may be implementable. If not, some degree of regular testing could be the only answer.
In addition, there could be a number of legitimate reasons why employees don’t want to take the vaccine. Staff may have been advised not to due to a pre-existing medical condition, or due to their cultural beliefs. If employees are subjected to a detriment as a result of this or other such reasons, you may face a costly discrimination claim.
If you’re having trouble deciding whether your workplace could legitimately implement a requirement for the vaccine, feel free to contact me on the number below.
HOW SHOULD YOU APPROACH THE VACCINE ISSUE?
Encourage staff to have the vaccine through awareness campaigns that focus on the benefits. Make it clear that while you won’t force them to take it, there are a significant number of important reasons for doing so. Consider if you’ll need external trainers to further explain why the vaccines are safe and effective. Alternatively, encourage employees to make an informed decision by reading information from official sources, alongside a cautionary note to verify the source of their reading matter due to the existence of uncertified information. Finally, remind employees to treat their colleagues with respect, regardless of their decisions about having the vaccine.
If you’re uncertain how to handle an employee matter involving the covid-19 vaccine, contact Nick for comprehensive, confidential advice using the contact information in the bio box.
Nick Babington is the director of Croner Group. He delivers client-based solutions to businesses of all sizes and advises on employment law, health and safety legislation and good commercial practice. His main objective is to demonstrate the necessity of keeping your business up to date with the constant changes in employment law and business safety. Contact Nick: 07896 036 993/ Nick.Babington@croner. co.uk