The government vaccination programme is well under way. This has led to employers wanting to know what this will mean for their businesses and their employees. At the moment it is premature to worry about how to get your staff vaccinated, however this doesn’t stop us looking towards the future. While it is initially reserved for the high-risk categories and frontline workers, it is currently projected that all 18+ adults will be offered the vaccination by Autumn 2021.
Thinking about the future
Question – Can I force my staff to take COVID vaccinations?
There are several key things to consider before you make a blanket statement to your staff regarding vaccinations:
1. Try to avoid lengthy discussions over something you can’t yet control – As we currently stand, vaccinations are not available to purchase privately and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Don’t get yourself into arguments with employees over something that MAY happen.
2. What is the role of your staff? – Are they frontline workers? Are they in customer facing roles? Are they office staff? In an ideal world, everyone would have the vaccine and be immune to COVID, however, is it absolutely essential for your staff to be vaccinated? If they can do there job following the current guidelines which keep them safe, do you need to enforce vaccines upon them?
3. Have you considered the potential cost of vaccinating your entire staff? – At the moment we do not know how costly the vaccination will be when it’s available privately, we also don’t know how long protection lasts. You need to ask yourself what the financial implications of maintaining this approach may be for your business. Vaccines can be expensive and may need repeating annually, so make sure you build this into your budget.
4. Frontline staff are currently being offered the vaccine, not forced – Even those on the frontline of the pandemic including health care workers, emergency services, teachers etc. are not having vaccinations forced on them. Is it right for you to demand your office staff to be vaccinated?
5. Have you talked to or polled your staff on their willingness to have it when it’s available? – Your staff may be receptive to the idea, however, you could also have 80% refusing. If that’s the case, then demanding they take it could be incredibly detrimental to your workforce’s happiness and your ability to run your business if you alienate a large percentage of your workforce
6. The statistics – We recently conducted an unofficial poll on our social media, posing the question “Should employers have the ability to enforce employees to take the vaccine to protect other employees and their business?” The results were 64% no, 36% yes across all platforms.
7. Will vaccinating your staff immediately mean you can go back to business as usual? – At the moment we don’t know how effective the vaccines truly are. There have been recent reports that even vaccinated people can still spread the virus. They will not be a cure-all, social distancing measures and masking will still be required.
8. What are the legal ramifications? – The legal consideration in these scenarios are complex, and will largely be based on your answers to many of the questions above. There is no one size fits all, but ACAS advice states employees should not be forced to have a vaccination, and certainly not before understanding their reasons for not wanting it.
We understand that businesses want to get things back to normal after the damage that 2020 caused, however it is important not to rush into decisions and back yourselves into a corner. At the moment there is so much uncertainty surrounding the vaccination and what the future may hold that it is not worth taking a hard stance. Be patient and wait for more advice from the government. We will be sure to bring the most up-to-date information to our clients in order to ensure that you can operate as effectively as possible.
If you’re unsure about anything in this blog post or you would like more information, please do no hesitate to contact us. We would be more than happy to help.