Whatever your personal stance on vaccines, it’s clear that making Covid vaccinations compulsory raises key issues for employers to know about.
Government decision on vaccine passports
We are expecting a Government decision on what they’re calling covid status certification by 21st June at the latest. The covid status certification is more commonly being referred to as a vaccine passport.
No jab, no job?
Let’s look at the key issues for employers arising from a possible decision to make Covid vaccinations compulsory in your workplace.
In theory, it is possible to make having a Covid vaccine a contractual requirement. However, in practice this means varying an employee’s terms and conditions of employment and that in turn requires the employee’s agreement. So in other words, while you may propose to make it a contractual requirement, you will still need your employees to agree before introducing it.
One of the key issues to consider of course is what happens if you do decide to make a vaccination compulsory and one or more of your employees refuse, how you do handle that?
It’s important to fully understand the reason for the refusal before deciding what action, if any, to take. Bear in mind that it will be a very rare case where compelling someone to have a vaccine would be justified. Equally, taking disciplinary action or even dismissing someone who refuses to have a vaccine would be considered extremely risky and certainly not a route to take without specific advice first.
People could have all sorts of reasons for refusing and these could relate to protected characteristics like age, pregnancy/maternity or disability so it’s essential that you ask questions first rather than assuming that someone just doesn’t want to have the vaccine.
I recommend that you consider all your options which could include the individual working from home or redeploying into a different area of the business if possible.
Recruitment process delays
If you introduce compulsory vaccinations, what happens when you’re recruiting? Do you insist that people who are even visiting the workplace for an interview prove that they’ve been vaccinated first? What if the person you really want to recruit hasn’t had the vaccine yet? Are you prepared to delay the process until they do? These are all points worth considering.
Covid secure guidelines
It’s also important to note that even if your workforce have been vaccinated, that does not mean that you can dispense with Covid secure guidelines. People will still need to follow social distancing rules, wearing masks, handwashing and any other Covid workplace rules you currently have in place.
Even if you’re not making Covid vaccines compulsory but you do decide to ask employees to declare whether or not they have been vaccinated, it’s important to consider data protection first. Consider:
For what reason you need to know – is it justifiable that you should ask the question?
How are you going to record the data relating to vaccines?
Who will have access to the data?
How long will you keep the information?
How will you dispose of the records once they’re no longer required?
The “no jab, no job” approach may seem attractive as a way of managing risk and ensuring that you are meeting your legal obligations to provide a safe working environment for your employees. However, it’s important that you fully consider all the associated issues and consequences before introducing such a policy.
Keeping HR Simple are running a free webinar on Thursday 13th May to cover the subject of vaccinations in the workplace in more detail. Sign up to reserve your place or contact us for more detailed advice or guidance.