The COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in the pandemic and gives hope to many of us that at last we might be able to start making a return to normal life.
As a business owner, I am sure your focus is on ensuring the safety and security of your staff and business, so you probably have lots of questions about the potential impacts of the vaccine rollout.
Here are the main issues I am advising clients on at the moment:
Will the COVID-19 vaccine mean a return to normal working conditions?
It remains to be seen how quickly vaccines will permit restrictions to be lifted and employers will need to keep up-to-date with all guidance coming from the Government. It should be remembered that it is likely to take some time to vaccinate the entirety of the UK population, meaning that we may yet need to live under certain levels of restriction for some time. That said, as more people are vaccinated, restrictions should start to slowly lift.
Can the COVID-19 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. Given the extreme demand for its usage worldwide, current commentary from the Government suggests that it will monitor carefully how and when it is distributed. However, as more people are vaccinated, and COVID-19 hopefully becomes less of a threat, companies may be presented with the opportunity to seek private vaccinations, especially if vaccines need to be administered more than once.
Can I force my staff to have the vaccine to return to work?
The Government has not chosen to make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. Despite this, there may be some industry sectors that implement a requirement for their staff to have the vaccine for safety reasons. This may apply to operators in the care sector, where maintaining social distancing and adhering to other safety measures is not possible.
In workplaces that do not involve care, such as offices or retail, it may be considerably more difficult to try and put in place such a restriction because risks can be mitigated in other ways. For example, having employees working from home, or maintaining social distancing in other ways. In addition, there could be several reasons why employees do not want to take the vaccine. They may have been advised not to due to a pre-existing medical condition, or due to their religious beliefs. If employees are subjected to a detriment as a result of this or other such reasons, the organisation may face a costly discrimination claim.
How should organisations approach the vaccine issue?
The most appropriate course of action for employers is to utilise awareness campaigns to encourage staff to have the vaccine. It should be made clear to staff through policy that whilst they will not be forced to take it, there are a significant number of benefits for doing so.
You might even consider using external HR Consultants or trainers to further explain why the vaccines are safe and effective. Alternatively, employees can be encouraged to make an informed decision about having the vaccine by reading information from official sources, alongside a cautionary note to verify the source of their reading matter.
Employees should also be reminded to treat their colleague with respect regardless of their decision about having the vaccine.
Overall, while many welcome the vaccines, it remains a contentious issue among some communities and individuals. It’s important, therefore, to approach the subject with your staff sensitively and with an awareness of all points of view.
If you’d like professional, impartial advice about dealing with this issue or any other employment matters, I am happy to help.
Please feel free to contact me on:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 07855 374 511