With the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme well underway, the approach that businesses are taking to protect their teams and customers from the virus has been in the spotlight. From headline grabbing ‘no jab, no job’ policies, to examining the legal implications of mandating disclosure of vaccination status, there has, and continues to be, a lot for employers to think about.
Simply put, encouragement not enforcement is likely to prove the most suitable way forward for the majority of businesses. It gives employers the flexibility to balance their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act, with other areas of legislation including equality and data protection. It also promotes two-way dialogue with employees which can lead to early identification and effective resolution of any issues.
As the government has not mandated vaccinations, if an employer does want to consider making it a condition of employment, they will need to demonstrate the reasonableness of the request in relation to the specific roles and nature of their business. It is likely to be a high bar to meet and failure to do so comprehensively could put the employer at risk of constructive unfair dismissal and/or discrimination claims. As the consequences of instructing employees to have a vaccination is yet to be tested in the tribunals and court system, to be the initial test case would likely be costly and time consuming.
However, the good news is that there are many steps employers can take to encourage vaccine uptake amongst their teams. These include:
- Making credible and factual sources of information about vaccines (particularly safety data) readily available;
- Having a clear vaccination policy in place that includes reference to the arrangements for time off for vaccination appointments;
- Providing paid time off for vaccination appointments;
- Leading by example; positively publicising those (with their permission!), particularly within the senior leadership team, who have taken up the offer of a vaccine;
- Updating risk assessments on a regular basis to reflect the availability of vaccines, special measures for extremely vulnerable employees and other measures that are in place as an alternative to vaccination.
Here at Peopletime, we are well placed to help you determine the right approach for your business. Whether you’re looking to update covid risk assessments, draw up a vaccination policy or explore the options for mandating vaccinations within your business, our experienced HR and Health and Safety teams are on hand to guide you through this changeable landscape. Give us a call today on 01280 875220 or email [email protected] for more information.