On 25 February 2021 ACAS updated its guidance on working safely during coronavirus to include a new section ‘Getting the coronavirus vaccine for work’.
This contains a number of suggestions for providing support to employees in order to encourage them to get the vaccine once it is offered to them. This includes:
- Allowing paid time off to attend vaccination appointments
- Making sure staff get the same sick pay as they would for other illnesses if they experience any side effects from the vaccine
- Recording vaccine-related absences in the same way as any other sickness absence
As a starting point, it suggests that employers should start communicating with their employees or employee representatives about the vaccine and the benefits of being vaccinated. This could go alongside the introduction of a workplace policy relating to vaccinations.
This may set out an expectation that employees will get the vaccine but at the same time, it will need to be recognised that some may have legitimate reasons for not taking the vaccine or they could be protected from discrimination under equality legislation. The example given by ACAS is someone who is pregnant.
In ACAS’s view, it would be best to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement. However, in some circumstances, the nature of the work may lead to an employer concluding that the risk of infection was so great, even with all other precautions having been taken, that the employees need the vaccine to be able to carry out their work. An employer in these circumstances is advised to try and reach an agreement in advance with the staff and their representatives in order to avoid potential future disputes.