COVID Vaccine – HR’s Questions Answered

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The Covid vaccine has brought hope that it will help to bring an end to the pandemic and allow us to return to a normal life once again. Over 12 million people have received their first dose in the UK. It is unknown how many people need to be vaccinated to keep the disease under control, but it’s likely to take longer than what people hope. There are likely to be a number of things employers are wondering in regard to their employees and the Covid vaccine.

The vaccines for Covid have been produced in significantly less time than what other vaccines have in the past. In addition to this, misinformation is rife about the effectiveness and potential side effects. Therefore, organisations are likely to face the barrier of some employees putting off accepting the vaccine or refusing it altogether.

A survey of 1000 Brits conducted by Kantar in November revealed:

  • 75% would likely agree to receive the vaccine
  • 11% would probably not receive the vaccine
  • 8% would definitely not receive the vaccine

How should employers react to their employees who do not want to get vaccinated?

 

What do employers think?

A survey of 750 executives found:

  • Almost a quarter of employers plan to mandate the Covid vaccine for their staff
  • Over half said they would encourage staff to receive the Covid vaccine but not require it
  • 12% were undecided

The research also showed that those who refuse the vaccine may face troubles when it comes to future employment.

  • 40% said they would be willing to dismiss a staff member who refuses the Covid vaccine without a reasonable excuse
  • Over half said they would hire a candidate who had received the vaccine over a candidate who hadn’t.

 

Will the Covid vaccine be mandatory?

Despite the results from this poll, the Government has confirmed that the vaccine will not be mandatory and therefore they cannot force the public to receive it. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 states that members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment. This includes vaccinations. A vaccination requires an individual’s informed and voluntary consent.

Clearly, this means that you cannot force your employees to receive it either. It is risky for an employer to insist that employees receive the vaccine. If you force your employees to receive the vaccine, it could lead to human rights concerns or criminal implications. There are some people who simply cannot receive the vaccination due to medical and religious reasons. If you take disciplinary or dismissal action against your staff you could lead to claims of discrimination.

In addition to this, someone’s anti-vaccination position could amount to a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. If an anti-vaxxer could establish that their belief was genuinely held and worthy of respect then they could succeed at an employment tribunal.

Instead of forcing an employee to receive the vaccine, we recommend that employers support their employees in getting the vaccine. Persuade them that it is safe and in everyone’s best interests to have one so that we can get to some form of normality sooner. Explain the benefits of receiving the vaccination, opposed to the negatives.

The vaccine is relatively untested and not all side effects are known yet. It is risky to insist that your staff receive it. If side effects were to later appear the employer who required the Covid vaccine could face action because they forced the first-generation vaccine onto their employees. Ultimately it should be the employee’s choice whether they receive the vaccine or not.

 

What to do if your employee refuses the  Covid vaccine?

There are some indirect measures that some businesses are considering to persuade vaccinations onto their employees if they refuse. These include refusing staff entry into certain parts of the workplace or certain roles. As well as this, some may implement disciplinary action if an employee refuses the vaccine. You should consider measures carefully as they can be risky. Without care or appropriate planning, you could face claims of discrimination.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states employers may have a duty to ensure a safe working environment by enabling vaccination of their employees in circumstances where they will have close contact with the clinically vulnerable. Therefore it may be reasonable to discipline an employee who works in a care home for example if they refuse the vaccination. Because of the high-risk nature of the work and the risk it could pose to the people within the care home if that employee does not receive the vaccine. This could ultimately justify the disciplinary or dismissal.

This could be the case too if your staff come into contact with members of the public, clients, or colleagues. For example, Pimlico Plumbers have announced that they will refuse to offer opportunities to workers who are required to go to customer premises unless they can prove they have been vaccinated.

If you choose to dismiss your staff on this basis then you need to ensure that you follow a fair process. Provided the employers have carried out a careful weighing up of the concerns of the employee against the needs of the business, its customers, and employees, it may be possible to successfully defend a dismissal or refusal to provide work in these circumstances. This will involve:

  • Considering the reason why they refused the vaccine
  • Whether there are alternative options than dismissal
  • You provide employees with access to good sources of advice about vaccine risk and benefits to enable them to have all information before making a final decision about the vaccine.

 

Working Conditions Post-Vaccine

It is uncertain when restrictions will begin to lift or when the entire UK will receive the vaccine. If rolled out correctly social distancing measures may start to be relaxed. It is likely that work conditions may never return to exactly how they were before Covid.

Employers who are looking to bring their employees back into the workplace after the vaccine should still be considering 3 things:

  • Is it essential (for wellbeing and productivity)?
  • Is it safe to do so?
  • Has it been mutually agreed (between employer and employee)?

The workplace should remain fully Covid-secure until at least the majority of the population has received the vaccine.

 

Anti-Vaxxers

Some of your employees may be openly anti-vaxxers and refuse the Covid vaccine. Whilst they are entitled to refuse, they may begin to take every opportunity to voice their opinions on the vaccine. They may want to voice how ‘dangerous’ it is to their co-workers. This may be a cause for concern as this may influence the rest of your workforce’s opinions on the vaccine. It is important to know how to get your employees to keep their opinions to themselves without facing a discrimination claim.

There are a number of ways you could approach this situation. One way is to tell the employee that they are entitled to their opinion however, it is inappropriate to discuss this topic with their colleagues. Request that they do not speak about this at work. You could also explain that if they continue they may be subject to disciplinary action for failure to follow management instruction.

If you would prefer to not have a direct conversation with the anti-vaxxer regarding this topic you could address the entire team. This way it would not be singling one employee out. You could request your entire team to refrain from discussing the matter as it is a highly emotive topic.

 

How can oneHR help?

With oneHR you can easily and quickly track which of your employees have received the Covid Vaccine.

Custom Sections within Employee Directory

You can build custom sections within oneHR where you have the ability to add fields to track information related to the vaccine. Fields could include, vaccination status, dates, etc. This makes it easy to keep track of which of your staff have received the vaccine and which have not.

Custom Report

You can build custom reports based on the Covid Vaccination data that you collect. You can create reports based on lots of different data, such as:

  • Vaccinated employees
  • Dates of vaccination
  • Dates for vaccination.

 

If you have any further questions or queries about the content above or would like to request a demo for oneHR, please don’t hesitate to contact the oneHR team today.

E: contact@onehrsoftware.com

Twitter: @oneHR_

 

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