Workplace expert, Acas, has published new advice on getting the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for work.
The NHS vaccination programme offers a free coronavirus vaccine for everyone in the UK. All over 50s and the clinically vulnerable are due to be offered the vaccine by 15 April with the rest of the population offered a vaccine shortly afterwards.
Many office-based workplaces have successfully adapted to home working during the pandemic. However, this has not been possible for many non-office-based workplaces and some employers have expressed a desire for their staff to be vaccinated as a workplace condition.
Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:
“The UK has a world leading coronavirus vaccination programme and recent projections suggest that everyone in the country may get offered the vaccine by the end of July.
“This is great news which has given hope to many businesses and staff that have been impacted by the pandemic. Some employers have already indicated a wish for their employees to get vaccinated once it is their turn but this is a tricky area of employment law as vaccines have always been voluntary.
“Our new advice aims to help employers support staff to get the vaccine, maintain good workplace relations and avoid unnecessary conflict.”
Acas advice is that employers should support staff in getting the coronavirus vaccine once it is offered to them. This support can include paid time off for staff to attend vaccination appointments or if they are off sick with vaccine side effects for a few days.
It can also help to speak to staff or their representatives about the vaccine and the benefits of being vaccinated. Talking points could include:
- the government’s latest vaccine health information
- when staff might be offered the vaccine
- if staff will need time off work for vaccine reasons
- if staff might need the vaccine to be able carry out their work
Employers that are having open discussions with their staff about the vaccine can support them to protect their health, maintain good working relationships, avoid disputes in the future and agree a vaccine policy that’s appropriate for staff and their organisation.
Acas advice is that it is best to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement. If an employer feels that vaccination is a necessary requirement for someone to do their job then they should work with staff or the workplace’s recognised trade union to agree this.
This should ideally be set out in a workplace policy that’s also in line with the organisation’s existing disciplinary and grievance policy.
If someone does not want to be vaccinated then the employer should listen to their concerns, be sensitive to individual circumstances and keep any concerns confidential.
Some people may have legitimate reasons for not taking the vaccine or they could be protected from discrimination under equality legislation. For example, someone who is pregnant is exempt from vaccination. Staff should talk to their doctor if they’re concerned about their health and getting the vaccine.