Acas calls for employers to support staff in being inoculated against COVID-19 once the vaccine is offered to them, including through implementing practical support.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has urged employers to support staff with receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations.
This comes as new research by the body found that a quarter (25 per cent) of employers have not been providing staff with paid time off in order to get vaccinated and have no plans to allow this.
Despite this sizeable number, the majority of employers – around three-fifths (59 per cent) – have been facilitating this by giving staff paid time off.
This data follows recent news of CNN, a news-based television channel based in the US, firing three employees who came to work without being vaccinated.
Other U.S. branches of firms including Google and Netflix have also mandated vaccinations for staff. In these cases, unvaccinated employees will not be permitted to work on their premises.
However, many law firms in England have advised employers against forcing staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations due to the risk of discrimination claims.
Alexandra Carn, Employment Partner at Keystone Law, stated:
Companies that will introduce a contractual requirement that employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 could be falling foul of current legislation.
Under the current Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, there is a requirement that employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees so far as reasonably practicable. This has been cited as a means by which employers could demand employees to have vaccinations. However, this fails to consider other legal protections that employees may have, and does not consider the position in the event of a conflict of laws.
Many employees may not be able to have vaccines for health reasons and as such a requirement for vaccination may infringe the protections for disabled persons.
Employees may refuse vaccinations for religious reasons, a right also protected under the Equality Act. In addition, there is the issue that a belief in anti-vaccination is a non-religious “protected belief” under the Equality Act. There is a large body of case law on what constitutes a “protected belief” and from that, it is clearly arguable that an anti-vaccination belief, could qualify.
However, Susan Clews, Acas Chief Executive added that it was in businesses best interests to have a vaccine policy that supports staff to take time off. She argued this ultimately reduces the lengthy amount of time it will take for staff members to recover from COVID-19.
As such, Acas ultimately advised employers to consider paid time off for vaccination appointments as well as paying staff their usual rate of pay if they are off sick with vaccine side effects.
It further added that bosses should consider not counting vaccine-related time off sick as part of an absence record system.
*To obtain these results, Acas commissioned YouGov to poll 2,030 senior decision makers in British businesses. The survey was carried out online and fieldwork was carried out between 15 and 28 June 2021.