Coronavirus vaccination
FAQ for employers

The information below was last updated on 16th August 2021

Please contact your local HR Dept for advice on how the below information might apply to your business.

 

Time off

Q: Do I need to give workers paid time off to go for a test?

Employers should give employees time off to go for a test if it is a requirement to attend the workplace. Lateral flow tests can be kept at home – they are free and you can order more tests easily. If the employee is required to have a PCR test, then they should be allowed time off to attend so that they can receive a result as quickly as possible. It’s not a statutory right, but it is best practice. If an employee is off sick as they are too unwell to work then follow your absence policy.

Q: Do I have to allow employees time off during working hours to receive a vaccination?

No you don’t but if you want to encourage your employees to be vaccinated then we advise that you allow the time off. You can choose whether or not you want to pay for the time off.

The exception to this is if your contract or handbook includes any rules around time off for medical appointments.

 

Vaccine Status

Q: I want to know whether or not my employees are vaccinated – is that ok?

Maybe, but be cautious. Have a look at the Information Commissioner’s Office for guidance.

You need a legal basis for storing such data. We strongly recommend that you obtain health and safety advice on this point before you ask your employees for this information.

Q: If an employee is using their unvaccinated status as a reason not to attend work, what do I do?

Ask them what their concern is. If they can have the vaccination but are choosing not to do so then you can insist that they attend the workplace as normal as it is their choice not to receive the vaccination.

If they intend to be vaccinated and have appointments booked then you can agree an interim arrangement until they are fully vaccinated.

If they cannot be vaccinated because of a medical exemption (ie allergy to a vaccination ingredient) then carry out a risk assessment and put measures in place that will make them feel confident to attend the workplace. In these situations, you must treat it on a case-by-case basis as not everyone will have the same concern so individual risk assessment is important to ensure that the individual employee feels confident that they are as safe as possible in the workplace.

Q: Do employees who have been vaccinated still need to be tested?

Yes. A vaccinated person can still contract and transmit COVID-19 so they should follow the same protocols as an unvaccinated person.

Q. Do I have to keep proof of vaccination status?
If someone is saying that they don’t need to self-isolate because they have been fully vaccinated, then you can ask to see the evidence from the app or the paper version, and then you can allow them back in the workplace. You don’t need to take a copy. You can just note that you’ve seen the evidence so they can continue to work.

If you are a care home provider in England then you must keep evidence of the vaccination status.

Q. Do I need to update our privacy policy?
If you are recording the vaccination status somewhere then update your privacy policy. Care homes in England will need to do this. If you are just viewing the evidence and then allowing the individual to work then you are not storing data so no requirement to update the privacy policy.

 

Mandatory vaccinations

Q: I want all my employees to be vaccinated – can I insist on it?

It depends on your reason. If you are a Care Home provider in England then the law will be changing on 11th November 2021 which means that it will be a legal requirement that employees, visiting professionals and trades people within care homes to be double vaccinated to enter the premises. It will be a fair reason for dismissal of current employees but it’s vital that you obtain professional HR advice to ensure that you manage this process fairly and in line with the legislation. Please contact your local HR Dept office.

For Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

If you are in any other industry, it is unlikely that you will have good enough reason to insist on mandatory vaccinations for your employees. Legally, you risk potential discrimination claims which will depend on the individuals’ reason for not being vaccinated so tread very carefully. Talk to us if you would like to discuss this further.

Q: Can I add a clause to my employment contracts that all new employees must be vaccinated?

Yes you can if you run a care home or have staff visiting to working in them in England. It’s unlikely that you will be able to for other industries though. See answer to question above.

For Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

Q: Should we have a vaccination policy?

This is a complex area so we would advise that you have a policy so that your employees understand your reasons behind the decisions made regarding vaccinations, storing data and how that data is used which would also link to your workplace risk assessments.

 

Resolving conflict

Q: I have an employee who is vaccinated who has said that they don’t want to sit in the same office as anyone who is unvaccinated, how do I handle this?

Sit with the employee who is concerned and talk through your risk assessment which will hopefully assure them of their safety. Signposting to reliable sources of information about how the vaccination can also transmit COVID-19 might help to emphasise the importance of everyone’s responsibility in the workplace to maintain appropriate COVID protocols.

Q: How do we deal with vaccination debates at work?

You should recognise that this is an incredibly emotive subject and has the potential to be divisive in the workplace so you might consider a policy that employees don’t discuss vaccinations or enquire about their colleagues’ vaccination status.

Q: If an employee says that the vaccination is against their religion or against their belief, what do we do?

In a care home in England, from 11th November 2021, you would be required legally to dismiss them if they choose to not be vaccinated. This is a complicated area of law, so please take advice from your local HR Dept office.

For Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

If they are in any other industry, then you may risk a discrimination claim if you dismiss someone who refused to be vaccinated on the grounds of religion or belief, so please talk to us.

Q: If someone doesn’t want to be vaccinated because they are just anti-vaccination, how do we deal with that?

In a care home in England, from 11th November 2021, you would be required legally to dismiss them if they choose to not be vaccinated. This is a complicated area of law, so please take advice from your local HR Dept office.

For Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

In other industries, you would need to understand where that statement is coming from. This may be protected as a belief, but it depends on the individual’s explanation. It’s a particularly difficult situation so please talk to us for advice.

 

Managing absence and ill-health

Q: How do we treat an employee who phones in sick after getting the vaccination?

You would treat them the same way as any other sickness absence so follow your absence policy. If you don’t have one, contact your local HR Dept office for advice. If the employee has covid symptoms, they should isolate until they have a negative PCR test.

Q: My employee says they are at a higher risk of blood clots so doesn’t want the vaccination – what do we do?

Advise the employee to speak to their GP. If the employee has a medical exemption, ask for evidence if you need it (which will depend upon the circumstances).

Q: What if we told our employees to get vaccinated and someone suffers vaccine damage?

If you are making the vaccination mandatory, then we would advise that you contact your insurers to obtain the appropriate cover. The vaccine damage payment scheme covers COVID-19 vaccine damage claims so you could direct any affected employee to the payment scheme.

 

NHS COVID pass

Q: Can we ask employees to demonstrate their COVID status using the NHS Covid pass?

In England, yes the NHS Covid pass can be used for any fully vaccinated adult, any adult who has tested negative in the previous 48 hours or any adult who has natural immunity because they have had a positive PCR test in the last 6 months.

For Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

Q: What if I have an employee who doesn’t want to use the NHS COVID pass?

If they are exempt from vaccination or testing, then they may not use it and could self-declare their condition in terms of their symptoms. Please obtain advice from your local HR Dept office if you work in a care home or are a supplier to a care home.

 

Care homes

Q: What are the changes to care homes in terms of vaccinations in England?

Vaccination for Covid-19 will be mandatory in England from 11th November 2021. There are exemptions for those who are clinically exempt (religious and philosophical beliefs are not an exemption under the legislation).

You need to write to your employees now to advise them of the change and notify them of what is expected of them in terms of vaccine status. If someone is not yet vaccinated, then they need to get their first vaccination by 16th September to be in time for their second vaccination for 11th November 2021.

It’s not just care home workers. It also applies to agency staff, temps, tradespeople who visit care homes and volunteers.

Residents and their visitors do not need to be vaccinated. Emergency workers also don’t need to be vaccinated, nor do children.

For HR advice on care homes in Scotland, please see official government advice or contact your local HR Dept. For Wales please see official government guidance or contact your local HR Dept.

Do you run a business and have a HR question about coronavirus?

The HR Dept provide outsourced HR support to employers. If you are an employee we would suggest that you contact Acas.

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