More than half of managers in the UK support the right to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees before they can return to work, according to a national poll conducted by the Chartered Management Institute of more than 1000 managers.
The result adds to the current pressure faced by the government to support ‘jabs for jobs’ in an effort to try and accelerate the reopening of the economy. However, Neil McLeese, Managing Director at BeyondHR warns that this may pose serious issues for employers.
“Introducing a mandatory vaccination scheme for employees will certainly bring a level of confidence back to the workplace with the hope that it is a safe space, and any potential outbreaks should be minimised. Therefore, employers can focus on business recovery or growth.
However, it is important to note that some employees may be fervent anti-vaxxers and therefore a mandatory scheme has the potential to cause issues.
“An employee’s anti-vaccination position could amount to a protected philosophical belief under equality legislation. So, if an anti-vaxxer can establish that their belief was genuinely held and worthy of respect, then they may find success at a tribunal and this is something that employers need to bear in mind before making any drastic decisions.”
Under increased pressure from employers, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Grove, as directed by Boris Jonson, is currently reviewing how Covid-19 certification could work through the use of testing or vaccination. The review will consider the ethical, legal, privacy, equality and operational impacts should such a scheme be introduced.
43% of managers surveyed also think that office access should be restricted for those who refuse to be vaccinated on non-medical grounds, but Neil McLeese recommends employers think carefully before implementing any indirect measures aiming to pressurise vaccination of their employees to avoid legal action:
“If an employee’s refusal to be vaccinated is down to a disability/protected religious/philosophical belief, and results in disciplinary action from their employer, they may be able to issue a direct or indirect discrimination claim for constructive unfair dismissal, if they resign in protest.
“A better course of action for organisations would be to help employees to make informed decisions regarding their vaccination by sharing impartial, factual information.”
Three-fifths of employers asked have already decided to make testing available to staff when they reopen their offices. The government also revealed earlier this week that 48,000 employers had expressed an interest in its free workplace rapid testing programme – highlighting employers’ commitment to a safe and swift return to work when allowed.
The poll also found that larger companies were more open to flexible working and likely to adopt hybrid working polices currently being introduced throughout the UK.
“The past year has seen thousands of employers move to remote working” states Neil McLeese. “Although this unprecedented move had its own set of challenges, firms have now established a successful method of working and we believe many companies will now offer permanent flexible working opportunities for employees”.