Covid 19 Vaccine and employer and employee rights and responsibilities

COVID-19 – Vaccine

A number of members have recently raised issues regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, in particular regarding employer and employee rights and responsibilities.

The legislation relevant to the situation is the Coronavirus Act, including any associated regulations and covid secure workplace practices, and the H and S at Work Act, in particular the issues regarding duty of care.

Visionary has sought advice from our retained advisors – HR Roots HR CIC and H and S Ambeck Associates. And together, we have also referred to and reviewed current government advice.

This briefing note was developed based upon information available as of Tuesday 15 December 2020.

  • There are currently no official plans for the COVID-19 vaccine to be made compulsory.
  • The current COVID-19 vaccine protects up to 95% of those vaccinated from contracting COVID-19. (Other vaccines are in development).
  • The current COVID-19 vaccine (and any of those in development) do not prevent a vaccinated person from being a carrier or transmitter of the COVID-19 virus, meaning that a vaccinated asymptomatic person could still infect others.
  • New strain of Covid-19 – identified in particular in the South East of England. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the strain has any impact on disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
  • Employers may wish to support employees to access the vaccine e.g. allowing employees to access vaccination appointments during working hours. Employees do not have to confirm to their employer if they have been vaccinated or not.
  • There is currently no legislation nor reasonable cause under which employers could ask employees to confirm whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers requesting such information could leave themselves open to challenge.
    • Along with Roots HR we are monitoring this “reasonable cause” situation as it is currently a hotly debated topic among HR circles at this time.
  • Employers may wish to remind all with whom their services come into contact with (employers, employees, volunteers and service users) that all bear a duty of care to each other.
    • A Duty of Care is defined simply as a legal obligation to:
      • always act in the best interest of individuals and others.
      • not act or fail to act in a way that results in harm.
      • act within your competence and not take on anything you do not believe you can safely do.
  • As the COVID-19 vaccine only provides protection to the vaccinated individual then one valid approach is to consider it simply as another form of PPE (Personnel Protective Equipment) like gloves, face coverings etc.
  • Your Covid secure workplace practices (i.e. hands, face, space and other hygiene protocols) should remain unchanged and are unaffected by an individuals vaccine status.
  • As with the use of physical PPE individuals could inadvertently become less vigilant of safety protocols. The conscious or unconscious thought process being “I’m wearing PPE (or vaccinated) so I am at less risk”.
    • Employers should consider reminding all involved in their services that they have a duty of care to other colleagues, volunteers, service users and members of the public to ensure their working practices remain covid secure regardless of theirs or others COVID-19 vaccine status.
  • Employers may want to consider adding COVID-19 vaccine to their COVID-19 risks assessments in two main areas:
    • Provision of official information resources regarding the COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. that it only protects the individual and they could remain a carrier) and support to attend vaccination appointments.
    • Monitoring of compliance with covid secure control measures should continue (with associated recording of compliance checks and any corrective measures). Employers must of course ensure that compliance checks do not single out individuals or groups.
  • Non-compliance with agreed covid secure workplace H and S practices can be treated as a disciplinary matter.
    • Reminders and training/knowledge support should of course be a first step.
  • Visionary and Roots have advised and supported several members who have had to take formal steps regarding non-compliance with covid secure practices. Examples include:
    • withdrawing service provision from services users who refuse to comply with covid control measures e.g. face covering and social distancing.
    • employees/volunteers persistently disregarding covid secure practices.
    • development of a letter/briefing to be shared with staff, emphasising the importance of adherence to covid secure behaviour outside of the workplace (available for download here or below).

We trust that the above information is useful and clear. If you require any further information or clarification then please do not hesitate to contact us in the strictest of confidence.

Along with our specialist partners we will continue to monitor the situation and will share any appropriate updates.

Font Resize
Change contrast