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Encouraging your employees to have the COVID-19 vaccination

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliges employers to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks; this duty gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated to protect themselves and everyone else at the workplace. COVID-19 is also a reportable disease under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (known as RIDDOR) which strengthens employers’ encouragement that employees should agree to vaccination.

Most people will welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but there will be a minority who will be reluctant or refuse to have the vaccine. The reasons could be many and varied, including individuals who can’t have the vaccine (for example, on medical grounds), those who can have the vaccine but refuse (for example, on religious or spiritual grounds) and those who can have it but have concerns and are uncertain (for example, due to a fear of vaccinations generally). While it is primarily the role of the government and health service to combat vaccine hesitancy, employers play a vital role in helping promote a persuasive case for COVID-19 vaccinations as they are gatekeepers for the health and safety of employees.

Engagement by employers through good communication will help employees make informed decisions regarding their vaccination. Explaining and encouraging employees with impartial, factual information will keep them informed about the workplace impact and risks of COVID-19.

As the vaccination rollout continues some employers are making the decision to make vaccination mandatory, introducing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy and engaging only new who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and offering to pay for all employees to have the vaccination once it becomes privately available. However, the vaccination requires an individual’s consent and cannot be forced. If employees refuse vaccination, the employer may need to consider other steps that can be taken to protect them.

An employer could consider potential disciplinary proceedings for failure to follow a reasonable instruction in certain settings (such as health or care) where an employees’ refusal has serious consequences, but this approach is not without risk. Any employers considering this approach should seek specific advice.

While there are still unknowns—namely exactly when and where your employees will get their vaccine—start communicating now if you haven’t already.

If you need any assistance or guidance please contact us.