There has been much speculation about the vaccine and whether companies will require employees to be inoculated.
The argument is primarily two-fold:
Firstly, individuals required to travel overseas as part of their role may need a travel passport to gain entry into specific countries.
Secondly, in specific sectors such as care homes and healthcare, companies wish to protect their staff and customers with every means possible, and the vaccine is simply that: an additional layer of protection.
Companies such as Pimlico plumbing have been thrust into the media following claims they will require all employees to be vaccinated if they wish to continue working for the company.
Following much discussion in the media, London based plumbing firm Pimlico released the following statement:
“Just to be clear, as a company, we believe that vaccinations are the way of the future to keep people safe from Covid-19. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone should be forced to have a jab, and as a company, not only can we not do that, but we would never advocate such a policy; it would be an outrage.
All we are trying to do here is keep our staff and customers safe, and some of that actually goes towards our legal obligations on health and safety.”
Their argument is sound. Companies are obliged to protect their people with health and safety policies, but this argument is also about freedom of choice and the individuals prerogative.
The Governments Perspective
To date, the government have said they will not issue vaccine passports or make the vaccine mandatory but have said it is up to individual business what they decide to do.
While there is still much to be resolved and many discussions to be had, where does that leave companies that wish to protect their staff and customers by using the vaccine as an added safety layer?
The government has made it clear that if companies insist employees have the vaccine as part of a contractual agreement, the practice must be legal and does not discriminate against their customers or employees.
Where do Employers Stand?
This will be a very tricky time for businesses. Following a year in lockdown, companies wish to reopen and not close again and find ways to protect their people and their customers long-term.
They will also need to reduce absenteeism which can have a significant factor in your day-to-day operations.
Many companies will be reluctant to choose a compulsory vaccine because it will initiate many discrimination cases and unlawful dismissal. They may adopt the rapid, mass testing route, which provides a level of protection without the need for potential discrimination.
Choosing the vaccine.
Insisting that your employees have the vaccine will be very contentious. It will certainly come with risks, and companies will test the outcomes of such a stand in court.
Consider too that you’ll be asking employees to disclose their private medical records, which under Data Protection will require additional policies and procedures.
It’s also worth thinking about the cost to your company culture, morale and mental health, and both employees and customers’ wellbeing.
Weighing up your options will require a fine balance, a good HR specialist and certainly a lawyer.
To date, the vaccine has enabled many individuals to feel more confident about stepping out, returning to work and embracing life out of lockdown. It will be very interesting to observe the outcomes over the coming months as we ask our employees and customers to return to their workplaces, stores and offices.
If you’d like specific information about your workplace and employees, contact us directly at SFB Consulting on 01279 874676.