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Thread: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

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    LUSE Galant's Avatar
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    Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    I've recently had to give some thought to my personal position on employers enquiring into or requiring vaccinations for COVID.

    My employer has tried to keep all staff up to date with local COVID news and information, assist anyone with staying up to date with changing laws and requirements and tried to work to keep everyone employed through lockdowns, slow business periods etc. All good stuff!

    At one point the boss arranged for everyone to be able to get tested under a corporate arrangement, if they hadn't already. (I had).- And again, no issues with it.

    Following the arrival of the vaccine the updates continued - again, all good - until last week, where an HR manager asked me if I had been called about my vaccination. I assumed that this was an enquiry in the same vein as before - where the company was trying to assist everyone in getting vaccinated if they wanted it. In my case I had recently been contacted by the vaccination team because I had been diagnosed positive back in December, so I was on their list. I told my manager that I hadn't been vaccinated yet but had been called and could handle the arrangements directly myself. - So far so good, again, I thought.

    A few days later, the manager comes back to ask again if I had been vaccinated or knew the date for my vaccination. This started to bother me now. I had told him I had been called and would handle it. I didn't see any reason for the company to be involved from that point forward. Maybe they were just being thorough in ensuring people managed to get vaccinated but I definitely felt the vibe that it was more than that, but nothing was said.

    Now today, everyone received an email pointing to an internal vaccine calendar listing all employees and the status of their vaccination with slots for the dates of the first and second does (where relevant).

    I've responded to the HR manager with my own email explaining that I will not be entering any information into their form. That their assistance is appreciated but medical and healthcare are personal and private and I don't see any valid reason for having to enter personal information, even as simple as vaccination dates, on sheet open to all employees. Although frankly, I wouldn't even give that to my boss since it has nothing to do with him.

    Now, I can see how some employers might see an interest in being able to confirm to clients that "all our employees are certified vaccinated" and might be afraid they'll lose business if they can't state that, but that, to me, is a scary perspective on society. Considering the fact that our company - which does have contact with the public - have not previously been required to make any declarations or confirmations about possible infectious or contagious diseases or conditions, I don't see why it should start now with COVID.

    This strikes me as a serious invasion of privacy and I wonder whether it isn't illegal on some level.

    But maybe I'm wrong. I thought I'd get some outside perspective.

    I don't think I'm going to change my mind about the internal document. If it becomes a matter of my job security being threatened I might not make this a hill to die on, but I'm not going to use that open internal document. (Cloud-based via Google Drive, by the way).

    I think this whole mindset is flat wrong. The vaccine is available. People should, as always, have a truly free choice about their medical and healthcare procedures. That's the right place to be IMO. Pressuring people to get vaccinated OR ELSE, is not a good move.
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    Banhammer in peace PeterB kalniel's Avatar
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    It *may* be something as simple as making sure that they know when people are absent for getting the shot so they can put in place coverage/know not to book meetings etc.

    But if not, (and I am not a lawyer, remember!) I don't think there's anything stating employers can't ask their staff to get vaccinated, however they also can't discriminate if you've got a reason not to have one and they must keep any health related conditions confidential.

    To take some kind of action against you for not getting vaccinated/giving them the requested info they need to cover that in written policy first, and it should be in line with existing policy/grievance procedures.

    But I agree, the mindset may not be great - it probably comes down to communication - encouraging people to be vaccinated out of an abundance of care for example would be considered a good thing.

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    RIP Peterb ik9000's Avatar
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    the BS open form is a joke though and someone should be shot for that. GDPR people GDPR

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    It doesn't matter even if they did ask their employees to get vaccinated, the vaccination scheme is being run by the NHS to their timetable. Anyone offering vaccinations outside the NHS is doing so illegally.

    But I think this is more about privacy than asking people to get vaccinated? In which case I am fairly sure you don't have to provide any medical information(which this is) especially to a publicly(within the company) available register.
    Jon

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Sounds fishy and I don't know enough about the legality of it to comment but I don't think you have to share your medical records if you don't want to and you certainly have autonomy over what medication is given to you - that's one of the basic principles of medicine. I don't know if businesses can require you to have vaccines for public health reasons though, that seems a grey area to me and always generates some hot debates!

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    I would say it's a bit of a mixed bag, maybe even a grey area, because it's an unprecedented situation.

    It is, however, pretty clear that employers are not only entitled to but required (by law) to conduct risk assessments (Health and Safety law). But, that's very different from requiring vaccination, and a hell of a long way off of publishing an employewe's vaccination status, even to other employees. What next? Avoid so-and-so because he/she is AIDS/HIV positive? Or has an STD?

    Nah, that way lies a very, very slippery slope indeed.

    However, the status of Covid as en eminently transmissable airborne and surface-borne virus is rather different, risk-wise, to AIDS/HIV, or even most STD's. IMHO (and I'm not a lawyer either) a public document of vaccination status is a non-starter.

    But, assessing vaccination status for the purposes of risk assessment is fair enough, as is encouraging vaccination for the purposes of reducing risk.

    But that's where it gets slippery.

    It is very doubtful whether an employer can enforce vaccination (even if they had the ability to commercially vaccinate which, currently, they do not, at least, in the UK). Some people may have valid medical justification for refusing vaccination, and employers demanding what that justification is if an employee said "medically exempt" would be on very dodgy ground. A similar situation exists if someone rejects vaccination on religious grounds and again, discriminating against them with punitive action stands to get them sued. And even querying objections on "sincerely held belief" might be legally dodgy.

    So in summary, my (non-lawyer) opinion is that conducting risk assessments is not only legit but required. Publishing people's status is a non-starter. And if decisions are made based on status, then they need to be very careful to avoid illegal forms of discrimination, and to act only on the basis of reasonable risk, and even then, to act reasonably. For instance, if someone is not vaccinated, is it reasonable to find a way of minimising risk to others (which also is a duty) without undue or illegal forms of discrimination, perhaps by allowing them to work from home, or taking suitable precaustions to avoid/minimise risk.

    There is a line to walk between duty to the employee that is not vaccinated and their situation and privacy, and their duty to both other employees and, depending on the work involved, perhaps to the public and/or customers.

    As far as I know, none of this has been tested by a court but I suspect a lot will depend on exactly what the employer does, and to a degree, on how they do it too.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Employers can already insist on Drugs & Alcohol testing, especially for people like me who might deal with things like dangerous chemicals, firearms, explosives, high speed vehicles and heavy (sometimes very heavy) plant/machinery.
    To certify this, we have personal cards with QR codes that anyone in the industry can use to look up, verifying when we were last tested and whether we have passed or failed the test.

    I imagine whatever law allows such things would also cover vaccinations.
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by Ttaskmaster View Post
    Employers can already insist on Drugs & Alcohol testing, especially for people like me who might deal with things like dangerous chemicals, firearms, explosives, high speed vehicles and heavy (sometimes very heavy) plant/machinery.
    To certify this, we have personal cards with QR codes that anyone in the industry can use to look up, verifying when we were last tested and whether we have passed or failed the test.

    I imagine whatever law allows such things would also cover vaccinations.
    maybe not. One is to do with impairment of ability to do a safety critical task, vaccination is not the same. It's going to be an interesting one to see how it pans out. on the one hand I think people should have it, and unless medical reason prevents them, i really don't think people should be tolerated not having it. I fail to see good religious grounds against it, though no doubt some sect somewhere will try that line. On the other hand I completely agree it's not the employer's business as to my medical status. Unless you're going into OAP houses / nursing homes for vulnerable clients I don't think they should have any business knowing. But then there's people on a production line wondering if the chap next to them might make them ill... yeah this is one of those balancing acts that will no doubt come out as awful fudge given the circus currently running the show.

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    I believe there are some countries you're not allowed to travel to unless you've had the appropriate vaccination (yellow fever may be one of them, I think).

    For people working with vulnerable groups, I could accept something similar - you can choose whether or not to have the covid vaccination, but if you choose not to (as opposed to not being able to have it for a medical reason) then that's fine, it's your choice, but you won't be able to work where your choice puts other people at significant risk.

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    the BS open form is a joke though and someone should be shot for that. GDPR people GDPR
    This. Additionally if it's not in your current work contract... then they can't force you to legally (Disclaimer: I'm NOT a lawyer!).

    I know that some employers add that vaccination as a requirement for new employees... which I don't mind in this case. I'd like to see the back of COVID-19 sooner rather than later! But no, that should not be an open list, just to name and shame people (no matter what your opinion is on the vaccine).

    Regarding the vaccine itself, if your employer is a private business, that's their choice to insist their staff is inoculated (dumb public lists aside!). It doesn't really matter imo what their reason is for this particular vaccine; weather it's to ensure no staff gets infected because someone who was provided the vaccine refused, or like OP said, to say to their clients. Even libertarians (which I'm not btw) would say "that's just the free market".

    /*start of rant --- The fact that a cure to a potentially deadly disease has become a political talking point to some just baffles me... even if it's NOT deadly to you in particular, others in the population have died from it or had life-changing results. It's a medical disease... politicians should stay the f*** away from it. Anyways, politics suck. /*end of rant

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by Ttaskmaster View Post
    Employers can already insist on Drugs & Alcohol testing, especially for people like me who might deal with things like dangerous chemicals, firearms, explosives, high speed vehicles and heavy (sometimes very heavy) plant/machinery.
    To certify this, we have personal cards with QR codes that anyone in the industry can use to look up, verifying when we were last tested and whether we have passed or failed the test.

    I imagine whatever law allows such things would also cover vaccinations.
    Regarding this, I remember a conversation with a colleague of mine years back. He was staff, I was contractor, but we were both doing the same work. They introduced the testing policy at our workplace (mainly because of the people working on site - we were in an office). He said he refused to sign the new contract with this amended on it... as they can't legally enforce the policy unless he signed it. We enjoyed a couple of pints at the pub on fridays... Not sure what eventually happened, as I left a while later... but he was adamant they couldn't enforce the policy unless he signed it. Again we're NOT lawyers!

    I do recall one of our subbies driving a truck was kicked out of one of our sites by the Site Manager because he was drunk. And that sub-contractor company was fined, and written up for that. As it was part of the contract, that all their people had to follow these rules. Site had a strict no drinking or drugs policy for the obvious reasons! Same thing happened for PPE's during summer!
    Last edited by Scryder; 11-03-2021 at 11:32 AM. Reason: added a response to Ttaskmaster's post!
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by Scryder View Post
    I know that some employers add that vaccination as a requirement for new employees... which I don't mind in this case. I'd like to see the back of COVID-19 sooner rather than later! But no, that should not be an open list, just to name and shame people (no matter what your opinion is on the vaccine).

    Regarding the vaccine itself, if your employer is a private business, that's their choice to insist their staff is inoculated (dumb public lists aside!). It doesn't really matter imo what their reason is for this particular vaccine;
    It doesn't matter what the business is, you can ONLY get the vaccine in the UK through the NHS. You cannot get it privately and if you did so that would be illegal. So you couldn't currently insist people have a vaccination for something they may not have had yet or can't get yet. I am yet to see any examples of that happening in the UK. Unless you have an example?
    Jon

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonj1611 View Post
    It doesn't matter what the business is, you can ONLY get the vaccine in the UK through the NHS. You cannot get it privately and if you did so that would be illegal.
    Oh yeah, no I understand that. What I meant was they can tell their employees to get vaccinated as soon as it's available to them through the NHS... maybe I wasn't clear on that. Sorry!

    I always re-read what I write, but sometimes leave out things that seemed obvious.
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    maybe not. One is to do with impairment of ability to do a safety critical task, vaccination is not the same.
    I have contact with other members of the crews. If they're all off sick because I gave them Covid, that is a massive safety risk to the UK's railway system.

    I also have possible contact with various customers, including vulnerable ones, and other staff whose work would also be impacted if I spread Covid around. You can't close a nationwide business and slap everyone else in PPE just because one guy refuses to prove vaccination on the basis of some technicality.

    There's also the question of whether I am fit for duty and taking all reasonable measures to ensure I can carry out my job, which in the current climate would include getting the vaccine when eligible. As is, we already have to disclose whether or not we have any of several medical conditions, mainly in case we collapse from them. Knowing I'm not vaxed means the boss knows not to send me out on site where I'd be at greater risk.
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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    Quote Originally Posted by Galant View Post
    Now, I can see how some employers might see an interest in being able to confirm to clients that "all our employees are certified vaccinated" and might be afraid they'll lose business if they can't state that, but that, to me, is a scary perspective on society. Considering the fact that our company - which does have contact with the public - have not previously been required to make any declarations or confirmations about possible infectious or contagious diseases or conditions, I don't see why it should start now with COVID.
    I'd give any company who thought pushing that as a selling point a very wide berth, it's like saying "we've all had the jab so we can be less vigilant" - even with the jab you can still spread it, and I guess you could still catch certain strains. If they are thinking they could put their employees in to riskier situations just because they've had a jab with a very short trial period, they'd get utterly rubbishrubbishrubbishrubbish in the rubbishrubbishrubbishrubbishrubbishrubbishrubbishrubbish

    Would be good to hear a follow up on what their thinking was about the form, if they ever admit it

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    My company is adamant that they will not require us to have Covid vaccinations. It's going to be a mess, as it's likely that some countries will require proof of vaccination for entry, and we already have a list of required vaccinations. They even brought a nurse to the office on my first day and I got a new Hepatitis vaccine thanks to my poor record keeping. Fortunately I still had my records from my third time receiving everything else (!).

    But I'm not surprised. There's a lot of opposition to the vaccine among my coworkers, many of whom have had Covid thanks to our working environment. If it is required for entry in some places, maybe I can get some overtime out of it!

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    Re: Employers and COVID Vaccinations

    In a pandemic, I do not see anything supernatural in the employer's desire to be confident in the safety of employees. Vaccination information is not nuclear warhead launch codes.

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