Last reviewed 1 March 2021
While many office-based workplaces have successfully adapted to homeworking during the pandemic, this has not always been possible and some employers have expressed a desire for their staff to be vaccinated as a workplace requirement.
Acas has accordingly published advice on getting the coronavirus vaccine for work.
Chief Executive Susan Clews noted that recent projections suggest that everyone in the country may get offered the vaccine by the end of July. “This is great news which has given hope to many businesses and staff that have been impacted by the pandemic,” she said. “Some employers have already indicated a wish for their employees to get vaccinated once it is their turn but this is a tricky area of employment law as vaccines have always been voluntary.”
The new guidance from Acas aims to help employers support staff to get the vaccine, Ms Clews explained, while maintaining good workplace relations and avoiding unnecessary conflict.
Available at https://www.acas.org.uk/working-safely-coronavirus/getting-the-coronavirus-vaccine-for-work, the guide suggests that support can include paid time off for staff to attend vaccination appointments or if they are off sick with vaccine side effects for a few days.
Employers that are having open discussions with their staff about the vaccine can support them to protect their health, maintain good working relationships, avoid disputes in the future and agree a vaccine policy that is appropriate for staff and their organisation, Ms Clews went on.
In short, Acas advice is that it is best to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement.
If an employer feels that vaccination is a necessary requirement for someone to do their job then they should work with staff or the workplace’s recognised trade union to agree this.
Comment from BrightHR’s CEO Alan Price
Although the vaccine has provided light at the end of the tunnel and hope for a brighter pandemic-free future, it is clear that the national stance on how employers should handle the situation is to keep encouraging staff.
Employers may find that this is the best way to maintain good employee relations and avoid any HR implications of forcing staff to take the vaccine.
After all, it may be a breach of contract terms if such a requirement is not provided in staff employment contracts.