Covid-19: Do I need a workplace vaccination policy?
While you can encourage your employees to have the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available to them, you shouldn’t try and compel anyone to be vaccinated. It’s important to stay mindful that some staff will have their own concerns about the vaccine, and to take care to strike the right tone in your communication to them around this critical issue.
An alternative to introducing a contractual requirement for your employees to be vaccinated is to introduce a policy on COVID-19 vaccination which encourages all employees to be vaccinated when possible, but accepts that there will be circumstances in which it will not be appropriate.
If you do wish to implement a vaccination policy, you should consider:
- Consulting with staff associations or unions before implementing any policy.
- How you intend to communicate with your staff about the vaccination policy.
- The data protection obligations in processing data, and how you will communicate to staff about how their personal data will be used and the compatibility of the vaccination policy with their legal responsibilities.
- How the policy can be used to reduce the risk of potential workplace conflict between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff.
- In what circumstances the policy will need to be reviewed. For example, when private vaccination becomes possible.
A vaccination policy should also address the following issues:
Purpose and benefits of vaccination:
- Your policy should explain that its purpose is to facilitate the health and safety of employees and others entering the workplace, including service users and third parties, and compliance withyour health and safety obligations.
- It should provide information for your employees on COVID-19 vaccination and set out the your position in respect of related workplace issues.
- It should encourage vaccination in line with public health advice, while acknowledging that some individuals will be unable, or unwilling, to have the vaccine for medical or other reasons.
- However, it should make it clear that you do not consider vaccination to be a substitute for other health and safety measures, including compliance with the COVID-secure guidelines.
Scope of coverage:
- Your policy should confirm which roles and workplace locations will be encouraged to be vaccinated and why, and whether there are any circumstances in which you will require vaccination, and your justification for this. For example, once travel restrictions have been lifted, an staff member might need to be vaccinated in order to meet the entry requirements of another country where travel is a necessity of their role.
- You should also consider whether the policy should extend to all who come into the workplace, including contractors, visitors and other third parties.
The policy should confirm whether employees will:
- be given paid time off to attend their vaccination appointments,
- have any post-vaccination sickness absence recorded as sickness or otherwise,
- whether they will be paid sick pay for any post-vaccination sickness absence or whether they will still receive full pay
- be offered any incentives to encourage the take up of the vaccine when offered.
Data protection and privacy:
- The policy should explain why and how information on vaccination will be used
- It should confirm how long employee vaccination data will be kept and what decisions will be made based on the data held, and confirm that any data held will be kept confidential.
Ultimately, it’s not mandatory for an employer to have a vaccination policy, but it may be a useful way of communicating your business position relating to vaccination and encouraging staff to take up the vaccination when offered in line with health and safety obligations.
Author: Sarah Edwards LL.B (Hons), Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths