New Covid-19 vaccination employer guidance
22 July 2021
The latest Government guidance that was released on 12 July 2021 is aimed at employers, and seeks to assist them in supporting and encouraging the Covid-19 vaccination of their workforce.
The Government’s Employer Covid-19 vaccine toolkit is intended to be used as a resource for promoting expedient uptake of the vaccine, to remind employees of the benefits of having two vaccine doses, and to encourage employees to seek answers to questions and concerns about vaccination from a reliable source.
What is the main message to employers?
The Government is very keen to promote the message that the vaccination programme is the best method to address the Covid-19 pandemic. They state that high vaccination uptake in society is important, and having a second jab provides optimum protection from serious symptoms of the virus and to reduce transmission. Their view is that through encouraging vaccination uptake and promoting the dissemination of accurate information about the vaccine and its effects, employers can help protect their own livelihoods by reducing workforce sickness and can provide staff with the opportunity to discuss concerns, whether practical, medical, or ethical.
Employers are encouraged to use promotional information in their communications with staff and to promote the initiative by engaging with staff directly over the issues, such as by selecting ‘departmental champions’ to lead the dissemination of information and by involving senior leadership in supporting the message. Employers are encouraged to facilitate staff to have time off work if needed, to get vaccinated, which could include offering paid leave, although this is not a legal requirement.
What does the toolkit include, and how can it help me?
The toolkit has promotional material (posters and banners) that employers can print off and put up at the workplace to remind staff to get vaccinated and to book their second jab.
A ‘Q and A’ document is included, where vaccine common questions are answered, and there are links to sources of further information about how to book a vaccine, potential vaccine side effects and research on the protection offered through vaccination and testing undertaken to assess its safety.
Employers have a duty to take reasonable care to protect health and safety in the workplace, and by providing reliable information, they can demonstrate that they are helping employees to protect themselves and show that they understand the risks that the virus represents. However, none of this should replace workplace risk assessments, particularly those to assess and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Opening lines of communication with staff gives them the opportunity to ask questions to aid them in making informed choices. It could dispel incorrect rumours and misinformation, and give a forum to explore workplace concerns about what may happen if they were to get ill due to the jab’s side effects and were unable to work for a period of time. Employers can discuss the provision of sick pay and sick leave with staff, and plan how work could be managed in that eventuality.
How far should employers go in getting the message out?
Understandably, some employers may be reluctant to attempt to influence their staff in this way, or to get involved with discussing such personal and potentially contentious issues with their employees. It is also worth remembering that some people are unable to have a vaccine for medical reasons, and so it is important that employers are not seen to be vilifying or isolating those in their workforce who have not had a vaccination. Our previous article dealt with the issue of whether employers are able to insist that their workers get vaccinated (the ‘no jab, no job’ scenario). It is also important to point out that for workers in the care sector the position is different, so if you are an employer in that sector we recommend you take specific advice.
There is no one right approach to this new situation, and if you want to discuss any concerns you have about communicating information to your staff, our team are available to give you the benefit of our experience.
If you are an employer dealing with questions about how to discuss sensitive topics with your employees, then we can help. Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected].