To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate Employees against COVID-19 ?

Vaccination and the Workplace

It is not a secret that with the load of information and controversies in the press   and social media that some people are still hesitant about vaccination. The workplace is where most of the economic growth of a country is realized. How to go about this? Serious concerns have been raised by both employers and employees on likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus in crowded gatherings or confined spaces like airconditioned offices.

As we know, immunization against Covid-19 will not give full protection to those vaccinated persons from getting infected nor will they likely prevent the spread of the contagion. Furthermore, some people (pregnant women or those breastfeeding and patients taking anti-coagulants) may be advised not to have the vaccine on health reasons. Moreover, the duration of protection provided by Covid vaccines are yet to be determined.

Since January 2021, Government is offering COVID-19 vaccine to people in order of who are most at risk, those now known as front liners. Though there is no law that says people must be vaccinated, employers should support employees in getting the coronavirus vaccine once it is being offered to them. Suffice to mention that once people have their vaccine shots, they must still follow the usual “gestes barriers”.

To contribute in going through this dilemma we are sharing guidelines for a “Vaccination Policy” from the National Health Service (NHS) of England which will help employers and employees in their decision-making process.

Supporting staff to get the vaccine

Employers may find it useful to talk with their staff about the vaccine and share the benefits of being vaccinated.

It could help to discuss things like:

  • the government’s latest vaccine health information
  • when staff might be offered the vaccine
  • if staff will need time off work to get vaccinated
  • pay for time off work related to the vaccine
  • whether the employer plans to collect data on staff vaccinations, and if so, how this will follow data protection law
  • whether anyone needs to be vaccinated to be able to do their job

There are specific information materials for some sectors and groups, for example for healthcare workers.

To encourage staff to get the vaccine, employers might consider:

  • paid time off for vaccination appointments
  • paying staff their usual rate of pay if they’re off sick with vaccine side effects, instead of Statutory Sick Leaves
  • not counting vaccine-related absences in absence records or towards any ‘trigger’ system the enterprise may have

Talking with staff can help:

  • agree a vaccine policy that is appropriate for both staff and the enterprise
  • support staff to protect their health
  • keep good working relationships
  • avoid disputes in the future

If someone does not want the vaccine

If someone does not want to be vaccinated, the employer should listen to their concerns.

Some people may have health reasons, for example they could get an allergic reaction to the vaccine, or they are pregnant.

There is Government information on the vaccine, for example for women who are pregnant.

Employers should be sensitive towards personal situations and must keep any concerns confidential. They must be careful to avoid discrimination.

If someone is concerned about their health and the vaccine, they should talk to their doctor.

If an employer feels staff should be vaccinated

It is best to support staff to get the vaccine without forcing them to.

If an employer feels it is important for staff to be vaccinated, they should talk together with staff or the company’s recognised trade union to discuss what steps to take.

Any decision after that discussion should be put in writing, for example in a workplace policy. It must also be in line with the enterprise existing disciplinary and grievance policy.

It is a good idea for the employer to get legal advice before bringing in a vaccine policy.

Resolving an issue about getting the vaccine

If an employee or employer feels there is an issue, it is best to try and resolve it informally.

An employee or worker can raise an issue by talking with their:

  • employer
  • trade union representative, if they are a member of a trade union
  • health and safety representative, if they have one
  • employee representatives

If it cannot be resolved informally:

  • staff can raise a problem formally by making a grievance
  • the employer could start a disciplinary procedure.


Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Acas (UK)

Last reviewed on 16 March 2021

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