One in four firms not offering paid time off to attend vaccinations, poll finds

Experts highlight that providing paid leave is one of the best ways to encourage staff to have the vaccine

One in four employers are not giving staff paid time off to attend Covid vaccinations and have no plans to, a survey has found. 

The YouGov poll of 2,000 businesses, commissioned by Acas, found 25 per cent were not giving staff paid leave to attend vaccination appointments and were not planning to, while 4 per cent said they were not currently but were planning to in the near future.

Half of the firms polled said they had been giving paid time off for staff to get vaccinated, while another 12 per cent responded ‘don’t know’.

The survey also found that a quarter (26 per cent) of employers hadn’t been giving full company sick pay to employees who were off with side effects from the vaccination and had no plans to start doing so.

In contrast, half of employers (50 per cent) said they had been paying full sick pay to workers who were off because of vaccine side effects, and 6 per cent said they planned to start doing this in the near future. Another 18 per cent answered ‘don’t know’.

Acas urged employers to support staff to get the vaccine, and said one way of doing this was to give employees paid time off to do so.

It added that while some employers had a policy where a review is triggered after a certain number of sickness absences, employers could consider not counting vaccine-related time off sick as part of this.

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Susan Clews, Acas’s chief executive, said it was “in businesses’ best interests to have a vaccine policy that supports staff to take time off, as fully vaccinated workers are less likely to need longer periods of time off work to recover from Covid-19”.

Delivering on the vaccine rollout was crucial to boosting confidence in the reopening of the economy, added John Foster, director of policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

“The vast majority of businesses are continuing their commitment to protecting staff and customers during the pandemic. This includes showing flexibility when the time comes for their staff to get the jab,” he said.

“We’d encourage all companies to demonstrate this same level of consideration towards their employees.”

While employers aren’t legally required to provide paid time off for vaccination appointments, Katie Russell, partner in the employment law team at Burges Salmon, encouraged employers who were not yet doing so to reconsider.

“If employers are concerned about disruption to critical business services, they could consider encouraging employees to go for their vaccination at the beginning or the end of the working day where possible, which may already be the case for other medical or dental appointments,” she said.

“The fact that the majority of employers are providing paid time off for vaccination appointments suggests that, in their view, it is better for business to encourage and facilitate greater levels of vaccination within the workforce than to risk Covid-related sickness absences.”