Millions of people across the UK have now had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And after what has felt like the longest year of all time, the vaccine is giving us all hope for getting back to ‘normal’ life once again, but it also gives employers a lot to think about…
Before we get started, let’s have a quick recap of the UK vaccine rollout:
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout
- The COVID-19 vaccines approved in the UK are the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines.
- The vaccines work by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating protection. The protein stimulates the immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.
- None of the vaccines contain any live COVID-19 infection—so can’t give you the virus.
- Vaccinations are being offered in priority order. Health and care workers and people over 80 were first.
- The rest of the population is being vaccinated in order of age and risk—people between 45 and 50 are being vaccinated now.
By the end of July, every adult in the UK could have been offered a vaccine. This is very good news! It means your entire workforce could have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine by the summertime.
So now’s the time to wrap your head around the vaccine facts and make decisions about your vaccine policy, to help you avoid any HR issues, and keep your people and your business safe. Here are your COVID-19 vaccine FAQS—answered:
Q: Does everyone in the UK have to take the vaccine?
A: In a word, no. There is discussion around compulsory vaccinations in the care sector, but it’s unlikely to be the case for other industries.
Essentially, there’s no law that says people should take the vaccine—and this means there’s no legal basis for employers to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy.
Q: Why would somebody refuse the vaccine?
A: There are lots of reasons, including religious beliefs or health concerns.
Taking the vaccine is a personal choice, so if an employee refuses it, they’re not required to tell you their reasons why, either.
Q: Couldn’t I just make taking the vaccine part of employee contracts?
A: Changing your current employees’ contracts is risky territory. While it’s technically possible for you to do this, your staff could raise a dispute—and if you discipline or dismiss anyone for not taking the vaccine, then you could face a constructive or unfair dismissal claim.
Q: Is there another way I can make my staff take the vaccine?
A: Both you and your employees have a duty to maintain a safe place of work under health & safety legislation, so you can encourage staff to take the vaccine, but not enforce it.
One way to encourage uptake is to teach staff about the benefits of the vaccine, either by talking to them about any concerns they might have, or by offering them resources that tell them all about it.
Q: What if an employee is telling other staff in my business to refuse the vaccine?
A: If an employee is spreading false and harmful information, it could stop other staff from taking the vaccine, and this could put your workforce at risk.
While an employee is free to hold any opinion they choose, you may wish to take further action if the views they’re expressing at work could potentially cause harm to others.
But it’s advisable to talk to the employee first. They might be motivated by fear, in which case some reassurance and support could help.
Q: Can I decide to only hire new staff if they’ve had the vaccine?
A: Enforcing your current employees to take the vaccine is very risky territory for the reasons set out above, but it could be easier to make it mandatory for new starters. To do this, you’ll need to update your employment contract for new starters and share your position on vaccines before or during the interview process.
But be careful. Applicants might have a valid reason for refusing the vaccine and you can’t prevent them from applying, or getting the job, as a result of any protected characteristics, as this could be discrimination. Younger applicants could also still be waiting for their vaccine, and not hiring them because of this could be age discrimination.
Q: Should I keep a record of which staff have had the vaccine?
A: Yes, it’s good practice to keep track of who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine, and the easiest way to do this is with our online vaccine tracker, VaccTrak. Here’s how it works…
With VaccTrak, you can:
- Log COVID-19 vaccinations with our secure online tool.
- Download regular reports to see exactly who’s been vaccinated in your business.
- Reassure customers and employees that your business is safe with the VaccTrak pass.
- Download professional letter templates to encourage your staff to take the vaccine.
- Educate your staff on the vaccine with our expert e-learning tools.
To see how VaccTrak helps you protect your staff during the vaccine rollout, book your free demo today.