Can employers require staff to be vaccinated and tested for Covid-19?

With the UK beginning to exit lockdown many employers are now looking into extra health and safety precautions in the form of Covid-19 vaccinating. The NHS is currently offering the Covid-19 vaccine free to all adults with those most at risk being priority. As an employer it’s important to support our staff through this changing time and in making the decision to have the vaccine.

There isn’t currently a law stating that all employees must have the vaccine and if this isn’t stated in the employees contract then you cannot enforce it. As an employer you must always think of the discrimination law and how enforcing the vaccine could leave you with a court case on your hands. This is because some people for medical reasons cannot have the Covid-19 vaccination and we need to consider this and instead always enforce working safety guidelines and shielding guidelines – These can be found on the ACAS website.

Can I enforce the Covid-19 vaccine to make my workplace Covid safe?

As an employer you could argue that it is your duty to make the workplace as safe as reasonably possible as stated by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and this then requires employees to take action to ensure these measures are met. With this in mind, you could argue that all staff having the Covid vaccination would be a reasonable measure to minimise the risk of Covid-19 within the workplace. We must make you all aware that this type of precaution needs to be introduced and managed carefully to ensure that your business cannot be threatened with a disciplinary matter.

What should employers do if an employee doesn’t want the vaccine?

Acas recommends that employers should encourage employees to get the Covid vaccine and incentives this activity with time off for appointments and not counting vaccine-related absences in absence records or towards any ‘trigger’ system the organisation may have. There is also plenty of research to say that the vaccine helps to reduce transmissions which will benefit workplace health and safety.

It’s important to listen to your employees concerns and to be sensitive towards potential religion, medical or personal reasons for not having the vaccine.

Can I insist that new employees are vaccinated?

It’s challenging to answer this question with many factors being up in the air such as GDPR and the handling of such sensitive information as well as staff members possibly being unable to have the vaccine for religious or medical purposes. We hope the Government will clarify this over the next few weeks.

How can businesses offer Lateral Flow Testing?

The Government is offering the facility to perform lateral flow testing to businesses whose staff cannot work from home. You can use the link to see if you are eligible for free test kits for your work force.

When formulating and implementing your workplace testing policy, you should consult with your employees. You need to make staff aware of the reasons behind testing, the benefits to the staff and the business of limiting the spread of the virus.

You may need to take a sympathetic and constructive approach when communicating with employees about COVID-19 testing. If someone does not wish to be tested, their line manager should listen to their concerns and have a discussion with them about the benefits of testing and try to allay their concerns.

Employees cannot be forced to take a coronavirus test – it can only be carried out with their agreement. In limited circumstances, it may be open to employers to take disciplinary action against an employee who refuses a test. However, this would depend on factors such as the nature of the employee’s work and any evidence on the necessity of testing in the particular environment.

Please let us know if you would like a Covid Testing Policy, as we can provide one for you to use. If you are in need of any HR help or support when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations and testing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our award-winning team of HR advisers.

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