Vaccines at Work - FAQs

By Matthew Reymes Cole
18 Jan 2021

The UK has now approved three vaccines for COVID-19. The government is currently in the process of offering it to the public according to its priority-based strategy.

The government is dedicated to offering a vaccine to all adults by the Autumn of this year. The message is clear: the vaccine is the best chance of returning to some form of normality. However, there are implications for employers.

We explore this in more detail below…

Vaccine FAQs

To what extent will these vaccines allow a return to normal working conditions?

It remains to be seen how quickly vaccines will permit coronavirus restrictions to be lifted. You will need to keep up to date with all guidance coming from the government. It’s likely to take some time to vaccinate the entirety of the UK population. This means that we may yet need to live under certain levels of restriction for some time.

However, as more people are vaccinated, it can be assumed that the government will consider lifting restrictions gradually.

Can the vaccine be offered as a work perk in the same way as the flu vaccine often is?

It has yet to be confirmed if the vaccine will become available privately. It is currently in extreme demand worldwide. The government suggests it will carefully monitor how and when it is distributed.

That said, as more people are vaccinated, COVID-19 will hopefully become less of a threat. At this point, companies may have the opportunity to seek private vaccinations. This is made more likely as vaccines will need to be administered more than once.

Can I force employees to get the vaccine before returning to work? If so, how can this be enforced?

Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory. Despite this, there may be some industry sectors that may implement a requirement for its staff to have the vaccine for safety reasons. This may apply to operators in the care sector, for example.

In other workplaces, such as offices or retail, it may be more difficult to put in place such a restriction. The reason for this is because your workplace has the ability to have employees working from home. The same logic applies if you are able to maintain social distancing and mitigate the risk.

In addition, there could be a number of legitimate reasons why employees don’t want to take the vaccine. Staff may have been advised not to due to a pre-existing medical condition, or due to their religious beliefs. If employees are subjected to a detriment as a result of this or other such reasons, you may face a costly discrimination claim.

If you’re having trouble deciding whether your workplace could legitimately implement a requirement for the vaccine, call us on 01455 858 132.

How should you approach the vaccine issue?

Encourage staff to have the vaccine through awareness campaigns. Focus on the benefits for doing so. Make it clear that whilst you won’t force them to take it, there are a significant number of benefits for doing so.

Consider if you’ll need external trainers to further explain why the vaccines are safe and effective. Alternatively, encourage employees to make an informed decision about having the vaccine. They can do this by reading information from official sources, alongside a cautionary note to verify the source of their reading matter due to the existence of uncertified information.

Finally, remind employees to treat their colleagues with respect. This is important regardless of their decision over having the vaccine.

Expert support

If you’re uncertain how to handle an employee matter involving the COVID-19 vaccine, call one of expert HR advisers today for comprehensive, confidential advice on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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