With the UK Government COVID-19 vaccination programme now in full swing, it leaves many questions for employers and their staff in terms of expectations or even the legalities around having the jab.
The media has already reported on a certain London-based plumbing company preparing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy which sees them set to exclude people without the vaccine from future employment while also paying to vaccinate all current employees. It’s likely something many businesses have been mulling over – but how does taking this position look both morally and legally?
Thankfully, our governing body – The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – has released a guide to help business owners and HR professionals to understand their responsibility as the vaccination programme continues to gain pace and staff begin their potential return to the workplace.
It is widely known the UK Government hopes to have offered the vaccine to all adults aged over 16 years by Autumn. Of course, not all will take up the offer and even if they do, this won’t leave work facilities and staff altogether void of Covid-19 and other precautionary measures such as social distancing, handwashing and protective wear may need to continue.
Since the Government has left it open to individuals to make their own choice on having the vaccination, an employer cannot yet force its staff to take up the offer of a jab as and when it comes their way. Although it is certainly within their interests to promote the vaccine amongst team members as a means for improved wellbeing, with a healthy workforce typically a happy one – and a protected workplace much more likely to drive down the level of absence caused by sick leave.
As with most things ‘people’, it comes down to HR to understand all there is to know on a subject which, in fairness, still comes with so many unknowns; and that’s before they can even attempt to manage the message! The CIPD guide serves as a great starting point for HR professionals looking to understand more on the vaccine, covering everything from adopting a workplace vaccine policy to handling questions raised by employees around the vaccine programme, how to manage staff who refuse the vaccine and guidance for female employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
So, while we’re still a long way from what most of us consider ‘normal’, there are a lot of employers can be doing both in preparing physically for the months to come and virtually in supporting their teams to understand what the vaccine means in terms of their role. Above all else, encouraging an ‘open door’ environment where staff feel they can ask questions – and the HR team will listen before providing an answer – will serve you well on the journey to our country’s new normal.
And the higher your team retention, the faster you’ll come out of the blocks when it’s time.
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