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Guide to testing and COVID 19 vaccines for employers

As the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues, employers need to prepare for the impact on their workforce. While the vaccination can prevent serious illness in the person who has been vaccinated, trials to prove the extent to which vaccination prevents transmission of coronavirus are still ongoing.

Testing has been extended to the workplace, employers can register for government-funded lateral flow tests for asymptomatic workers. More information on this can be found here.

In the UK generally whilst vaccination is encouraged it has not previously been mandatory for other vaccines such as flu and this is also the case for COVID-19. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers must take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks; this duty gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated to protect themselves and everyone else at the workplace. The situation is not so simple. Employers need to take into account that there are some groups for whom the vaccine may not be suitable. Read about them here: By refusing to offer work to somebody who has not had a jab as the result of one of the above, employers may risk falling foul of the Equality Act 2010, by indirectly discriminating against somebody as a result of pregnancy or a disability.

Employers still need to question whether bringing employees into the workplace is essential and that measures such as handwashing, social distancing and the use of PPE must continue to be an essential part of their COVID secure measures. Employers should stay up to date with the latest plans and advice on the government website and adjust their plans accordingly.

ACAS has updated its working safely guidance to provide further information about workplace testing and vaccination for COVID-19. ACAS provides helpful suggestions and guidance on ways to encourage employees to be vaccinated and to prevent an employer being a hurdle for employees getting the vaccination. ACAS suggests:

· paid time off to attend vaccination appointments

· paying staff their usual rate of pay if they’re off sick with vaccine side effects, instead of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

· not counting vaccine-related absences in absence records or towards HR ‘trigger’ points

If introducing such measures, then as an employer it would be sensible to consider obtaining proof of vaccination appointments and/or attendance from employees (remembering that such information would be categorised as special category personal data). We would also suggest communicating with your employees about ‘how as a business you will support them to get vaccinated’ to encourage participation.

Read further ACAS guidance here.

If you would like to talk through your concerns around workplace vaccination and managing communications within your business, please contact the ViewHR team here.