Seven in 10 HRDs mandating staff Covid vaccinations, poll finds

But experts say employers need to be careful when implementing policies to avoid risking discrimination claims or putting off potential candidates

The majority of HR directors have said they will require staff to be vaccinated against Covid, research has suggested. 

A survey of 400 HR directors, commissioned by Indeed Flex, found seven in 10 (70 per cent) were planning to implement vaccine mandates, including one in five (22 per cent) who said jabs would be mandatory for all workers regardless of any potential exemptions. 

Just under half (48 per cent) of respondents said they would require all staff to be vaccinated excluding those with a medical exemption.

The survey also found that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents said that an employee’s vaccination status would impact their return to the office, with a third (33 per cent) saying that only vaccinated staff would be able to return. 

Only 15 per cent of HRDs said vaccination status would have no impact on their decision to return a staff member to the workplace.

In November, the care sector will be legally required to have all staff and volunteers fully vaccinated against Covid, but this is not the case for other industries.

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However, a number of companies have implemented their own requirements including supermarket chain Morrisons, which will be reducing sick pay for unvaccinated staff who are required to self-isolate.

Separate research by Indeed Flex has also indicated that the number of job postings explicitly requiring workers to be vaccinated against Covid more than doubled between August and September, increasing by 119 per cent. 

Jack Beaman, CEO and co-founder of Indeed Flex, said the figures showed the majority of HR professionals were prioritising staff and customer safety by requiring vaccinations.

However, Kate Shoesmith, deputy CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, warned that, although employers have to provide a safe environment at work, they also have to carefully balance this with the rights of their workforce. 

“It might be lawful for an organisation to mandate vaccinations in a limited number of cases – for example in health and care settings – but in most cases it will be better for employers to support staff, including contingent workers, to get the vaccine rather than making it a requirement,” she explained. 

This was echoed by Tom Moyes, partner at Blacks Solicitors, who advised employers to proceed with caution if they are considering the introduction of policies and provisions related to vaccination status as such policies could lead to challenges of discriminatory conduct.

“Given that vaccination status may be linked to disability or even philosophical beliefs, any policies which place non-vaccinated individuals at a potential disadvantage would have to be objectively justified,” he told People Management.

To remain cautious, he said it will be “essential” to progress slowly and consult with all employees that may perceive any policy to be detrimental, adding: “If dismissal is a possibility, consider it a last resort with all other alternatives prioritised”.