A HR firm that offers advice to employers has urged Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to offer more clarity regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and what this means for employers and employees alike. 

McLean HR, a HR firm, has recently written to Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking for greater clarity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recently, the vaccine has been rolled out in various areas in the UK, first offered to those who are most vulnerable such as the elderly and people who work in care homes. However, moving into 2021, it is expected to be offered to the rest of the general public in different batches.

However, there is concern that not enough information has been given to employers regarding the vaccine and how this will affect the workplace and its regulations.

The letter highlights some of the new legal and ethical issues employers could face in the months ahead as they plan a safe return to the workplace for employees currently working from home or on furlough.

Some of the questions posed to Mr. Sharma, from employers, include:

• Can I ask for proof of vaccination before allowing an employee back to the workplace?
• Can I exclude an employee from the workplace if they refuse to have the vaccine?
• Can an employee refuse to attend the workplace until all employees have been vaccinated?
• Can an employee refuse to have the vaccine and refuse to return to work due to concerns over the spread of COVID?
• Can an employees’ refusal to be vaccinated be a fair reason for dismissal?
• Can I include the requirement to be vaccinated in an employee’s contract of employment?

It states that, without clear guidance from the Government, the return to work and subsequent economic recovery will be jeopardised.

Particular areas of the business that could be impacted if the legal implications are not clarified include the operating model and organisation design of businesses, workforce planning, reskilling, and building leadership capability.

It states that the Government holds most responsibility to answer these questions as it will ensure employers can be mindful of their legal, ethical and social responsibilities to their employees.