Haslers HR Covid-19 Staff Vaccine Update
Employers are faced with lots of questions regarding whether they should give COVID tests to staff, allow staff time off for tests and vaccines and what to do if staff refuse a vaccine or test. Here is some advice which might help.
Can I get my staff tested?
Businesses with more than 50 employees are now able to access lateral flow tests, which produces results in less than 30 minutes.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged businesses and employees to take up the offer (where staff cannot work from home) to “stop this virus spreading”.
The lateral flow test is to identify those one in three people who have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it.
If staff have actual COVID symptoms they must not come into work but arrange for a PCR test and stay home until they get the results (normally 24 hours).
How do I get the lateral flow tests? You can register online and kits will be sent to you.
Can I force staff to get tested? You cannot force staff to get tested but you can encourage staff by outlining the benefits not only to them but also to their families, colleagues, and anyone else who they come into contact with.
Do I pay staff if they are self-isolating? – Yes, you can pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from Day 1 if they stay home whilst waiting for a PCR test result or have tested positive.
Do I have to give staff time off for a test or a COVID vaccine? Legally there is no requirement for paid time off for this, but employers would be wise to consider flexibility in staff hours where possible to enable them to do so.
What if someone refuses to have a vaccine? You cannot force staff to have the vaccine though you can encourage staff to be vaccinated by providing information of the benefits of doing so. Employers need to be aware that staff may not want to accept the vaccine for religious/health or other reasons. Having said that, the employer’s position may be strengthened depending on the industry in which they operate e.g. an employee who cares for vulnerable adults could be placed under instruction to have the vaccine because of the high risk nature of their work.
Can I discipline/dismiss/put somebody on furlough who refuses to have the vaccine? No, you are not permitted to do this as this would amount to discrimination and leave you open to a claim from the employee. Staff who choose not to take a lateral flow test or have the vaccine must not suffer any detriment as a result of their decision.
For more detail or if you have additional questions about how COVID 19 is affecting your business and employees then please contact Christine Inch, HR Partner.