The vaccine programme unlocked the nation’s freedom, and for the first time in many months, people are starting to resume a more normal life. And yet, COVID-19 is very much a present challenge for employers, especially for those deciding how to approach unvaccinated employees when returning to ‘new normal’ working conditions.
Although uptake for the vaccine so far has been around the 90 percent mark, some have chosen to remain unvaccinated.
And there are several reasons why employees have made this decision. Many feel there’s not enough long-term data to prove the safety of the vaccine. Others feel that the virus doesn’t pose a serious enough health threat to them. Another study revealed that around 10% of the adult population in the UK are frightened of needles.
But even if someone’s been vaccinated, they might not feel comfortable being in an enclosed space with a larger number of people than they have been used to over the past 12 months.
Another conundrum facing employers is whether to ask employees if they have been vaccinated. Employers could argue that if they had this information it would make safeguarding their employees all the more manageable.
However, under current data protection legislation, this kind of information is classed as special category data and the employer’s use of it must be necessary, proportionate and for a specific purpose.
The sector the employer operates in, the type of work employees do, and the risks associated with those specific workplaces will all be factors employers need to take into account when deciding whether to collect this kind of information.
For now, the only sector to utilise the law and go as far as mandating vaccinations is the social care system. From the 11th November 2021, people working in Care Quality Commission-registered care homes for adults need to have 2 doses to enter the premises, unless they’re medically exempt.
However, even in these circumstances where patient safety is of the utmost importance, the policy has been met with strong resistance and is currently being legally disputed.
Vaccine or no vaccine, many employees will need to feel comfortable returning to their work environment and will look to their employer for added assurances. We’ve highlighted a number of risk management actions employers can put in place to help alleviate those common concerns:
Keeping PPE and hygiene measures in place
These could include:
— wearing masks when walking around the office or visiting rest rooms
— limiting the amount of people in the office at one time
— spacing desks further apart
— implementing rotas
— having enough disinfectant products to hand
— introducing a company-wide hygiene protocol.
Create awareness campaigns around the vaccine’s safety and efficacy
Empowering people with the right scientific information could help alleviate any fears and anxiety around getting vaccinated.
Recent statistics have boasted the effectiveness of the vaccine. A study of 200,000 people revealed that nearly every single participant had developed antibodies 2 weeks after their first dose. Other data suggests that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines reduce hospitalisation admissions by 92-96%.
Allow people to work from home if they can
Many employers are now adopting a hybrid working policy, as its obvious people are just as productive working from home. And if for whatever reason some of your staff don’t feel comfortable coming back into office, it might be worth considering a full-time homeworking agreement.
However, there are a lot of jobs in the public sector that can’t be done from home, which makes it all the more important that appropriate safety measures are in place for them.
We’re here to help
RMP can help with advice and support on how to risk manage the challenging situations public sector employers sometimes face, so please get in touch if you need any extra guidance.
You can also visit the Chartered Institute of Personal Development webpage, where they’ve created a comprehensive employer’s guide to navigating the new challenges around employee safety.
Published date: 21st October 2021
This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. It reflects our understanding as at 19th October 2021, but you will recognise that matters concerning COVID-19 are fast changing across the world. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Our advice to our clients is as an insurance broker and is provided subject to specific terms and conditions, the terms of which take precedence over any representations in this document. No third party to whom this is passed can rely on it. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law. Should you require advice about your specific insurance arrangements or specific claim circumstances, please get in touch with your usual contact at Risk Management Partners.
Risk Management Partners Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: The Walbrook Building, 25 Walbrook, London EC4N 8AW. Registered in England and Wales. Company no. 2989025