COVID 19 Vaccine and the workplace
With the news that a UK vaccination has been found against COVID, as well as the outstanding number of over 130,000 individuals being vaccinated in the first week, many people are hoping this is the start of the return to normality.
For businesses, this will hopefully mean normal operations will resume, resulting in less impact from COVID. This impact is across several areas, including the downturn in sales and profit, ill health and absence amongst employees as well as a difficult market to source stock and supplies.
The decision of whether to be vaccinated is a very personal one, and many businesses may be considering how they can best ensure maximum take up amongst their staff to help the business recover. The government have been clear that the vaccination will not be mandatory, and there will be no legal requirement to be vaccinated.
Some staff may be very keen to receive this, and at the other end of the extreme, you may have staff who are “anti-vax”. Others will fall in between, perhaps being unsure, hesitant or concerned about the safety of it. Staff who refuse the vaccine may do so for many reasons, which could include religious or philosophical belief, or concerns from about the vaccine ingredients (vegan/vegetarian staff for example, or those with allergies).
Employers have already had to take actions to make their workplaces Covid safe, and deal with mandatory requirements including mask wearing. However, vaccinations fall outside of these requirements, and it is very likely to be considered unethical to expect staff to take part in the programme. All staff continue to have the same right to fair treatment, and the same employment rights, regardless of their views and beliefs.
Equally, it is important to manage communications and work relationships during this time. Staff who may be very vocally “anti-vax” should be managed appropriately should they be sharing these views in the workplace or influencing the opinions of others. In the same way, staff who are pro-vaccination should not be enforcing this belief on their colleagues.
Open, unbiased and informative communication is the best way to provide information during this time, being mindful that as an employer you have a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of your staff. Your approach to this communication will depend largely on your sector and setting. For example, those working in a care environment may have a need to have many more information sessions and communications with staff than those in an office setting. Staff who raise questions or concerns may need to be referred to specialist support, i.e. their GP, the NHS or Occupational Health, if you do not have the information available within the workplace.
One thing that is clear is that subjects such as vaccinations have no right or wrong approach or answer and raise many ethical dilemmas. Communication, open engagement and remaining supportive to your employees is key during this time.