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Top 5 Q&As on Coronavirus Vaccinations and Testing

on Friday, 19 February 2021.

We answer your most commonly asked questions surrounding coronavirus vaccinations and testing.

As an employer, do I have access to rapid workplace testing for my employees?

If your business has more than 50 employees, and you have employees who cannot work from home, you are eligible to access rapid workplace testing. You can do so by accessing the online portal which the Government has recently launched.

Are employers allowed to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for its employees?

The Government has not legislated for the vaccine to be mandatory. ACAS guidance has advised that even though employers can support staff and encourage them to take the vaccine, they should not force them to do so.

Some employers are considering a 'no jab no job' approach but this will have to be approached very carefully, with an open mind to alternative measures and a realistic assessment of the risks specific to a particular workplace. In addition, employers will need to consider whether a requirement to get vaccinated will apply to existing employees (where issues relating to variation of contract and reasonableness will apply), or just to new hires.

What employment issues should employers consider if they intend to make vaccinations mandatory?

An employer should only decide to make vaccinations mandatory if they have been through a proper assessment of the health and safety issues involved for their particular business and workplace.

If an employer decides to make vaccinations mandatory for their existing workforce, then the following issues should be considered before implementation:

  • Equalities issues relating to religion, age and disability.
  • Health exceptions for particular employees.
  • Will insurance cover protect the business in the event of negligence claims (for example an adverse reaction to the vaccine)?
  • Will it be necessary to vary any contracts of employment? If so, how will this be done?
  • Are there any alternative, less controversial approaches that would achieve the same business objectives?
  • Will there be a process of consultation and discussion prior to the change?
  • What will the employer do if employees refuse to be vaccinated?
  • Will any of the above trigger data protection issues, for example processing special category data about an individual's health?

Coronavirus guidance employers

How will the vaccine affect the health and safety measures in place at the workplace? Can these measures be eased as employees are taking the vaccine?

Although we are seeing an increase in administration of the vaccine by employees at work (especially in certain sectors), it is paramount that health and safety measures remain in place as we are yet to see whether the vaccine is 100% effective and even if it is, not everyone may be willing to take it.

Employers should be cautious when treating the vaccine as a reason to ease any health and safety measures and any such easing should be based on further objective assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance along with guidance provided by regulators such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) remains the same and they will still expect such measures to be maintained when carrying out any inspections or reviews.

As an employer, do I have to be mindful of any data protection issues with employees' coronavirus tests and vaccination results?

Before carrying out any employee testing, employers should inform staff about:

  • what personal data is required
  • what the data will be used for
  • if it will be shared and who it will be shared with
  • how long it will be kept for
  • if the test results will be used for making any decisions

A review of any relevant privacy policy may be required.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) states that as long as there is good reason for doing so, employers should be able to carry out health testing on employees as data protection law does not prevent them from taking the necessary steps to keep their employees and the public safe during the pandemic.

However, employers must handle its employees' personal data with care. Therefore, it is important that employers keep their employees' data safe in relation to both employees' coronavirus test results and vaccination information.

If you would like further advice on the information above and to find out what your legal responsibilities are in relation to coronavirus testing and vaccinations in the workplace, please contact Michael Halsey in our Employment Law team on 07554 432829, or please complete the form below.

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