Suzie Frost Talent Partnering with Smart Businesses
Covid-19 vaccinations are being rolled out internationally and are providing real hope to help steer us out of the global pandemic. Governments across the globe are making policy around vaccination requirements and deciding whether or not to enforce through legislation. Similarly, employers are reflecting on their vaccination policy too.
In the UK, the government are encouraging everyone to have a Covid-19 vaccination but will not be enforcing this through law. This leaves businesses to make their own decision about how to approach the vaccination issue and whether they will enforce Covid-19 vaccinations through contract changes or not. Already, we are reading reports of some employers proposing to enforce a vaccination rule through a permanent change to Terms and Conditions, but this could be considered risky. Other employers are recognising the right of the employee to choose and are allowing for this by putting other requirements in place, such as regular testing for those who choose not to be vaccinated.
Whatever the policy stance a company will take, businesses are already communicating with their employees and encouraging employees to take the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Many businesses are providing valuable, supportive information advising employees to:
1. Sign up with their doctor (if they are not already)
2. Access authorised sources of information (providing government health information sites)
3. Be aware of misinformation (signposting to medical services and doctors for support)
Businesses are also encouraging employees to take the opportunity to be vaccinated by providing paid time off for the employee (a maximum of 2 days for the 2 vaccination doses).
Information is still being provided on this area but there are a few points to consider as you plan for the impact of vaccinations and develop a company policy that supports a safe working environment for everyone.
Assess the legislation
Stay up to date with your national employment legislation. Consider protections that are in place and the legal risks if you were to enforce a vaccination rule (for example Equality Act 2010 in the UK). Take legal advice if you are seeking to enforce a rule as part of a change to terms and conditions.
Evaluate your business
1. Evaluate your risk and consult with employees.
Consider using a survey to understand how people feel about a return to the workplace and what employees feel about the vaccinations.
2. Use a team to evaluate data and develop policy.
Consider the threat to your employees? Evaluate the potential threat to others? Conduct a risk assessment.
Is it an occupational requirement to have a vaccination? Why? (for example, in medical settings this may be considered to be an occupational requirement.) If having a vaccination is not an enforced occupational requirement, consider whether there are other ways to limit infection, for those who may choose not to be vaccinated. For example, employees may be required to wear masks, have regular testing, or work from home. Evaluate these options and consider their impacts (for example, whether there would be additional costs, operational issues that may make face masks difficult to wear? Isolation concerns regarding home working). It will be important to discuss these other countermeasures with employees so preparing to talk about this and having a clear policy will be important.
Once you have evaluated your risks you can propose a policy decision regarding vaccination and safe working practices. Remember to review this policy as science, health recommendations and vaccination information changes. You may need to plan a quarterly review in 2021 and 2022 (depending on the speed of change).
Consider how you communicate and consult with employees:
· Consider bringing in a health professional to answer questions about vaccinations as part of wider discussions around health and wellbeing.
· Communicate your policy and provide objective information about your business environment, the potential risks and how safe working practices will be managed.
Communication, technology and tools
Conversations around health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important so having the right communication tools to stay in touch and connected with employees will be a sound investment.
· Secure health technology, using employee consent, is a simple way to share information, stay in touch with on-time reporting and be able to monitor safe working environments.
· Vaccination reporting, flu and pandemic testing, requirements for sheltering at home will all become standard in our post-pandemic era; and with a digital health passport required for any form of travel it is likely employers will be using these new technologies to support the safety and wellbeing of their teams in the long term.
· The right health technology can really help you to understand the wellbeing needs in the business and be able to prioritise.
In all conversations it is important to be aware that everyone is different and that everyone’s health is different. How you manage the return to the workplace and your genuine care for employee welfare will be welcomed if it is communicated thoughtfully for every individual.
At Medelinked, we have connected and listened to HR managers to understand what is needed to support a healthy workplace in 2021 and we are still listening. Medelinked supports safe working practices, giving organisations the technology to promote health and wellbeing, connecting the individual to their health needs and goal setting, providing the ability to connect and stay connected with your people and their health whatever the size and scope of your business.
DISCLAIMER: The materials in this guidance are provided for general information purposes and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. Medelinked is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any action or decision taken as a result of using the guidance. You should consult a professional adviser for legal or other advice where appropriate.