More than half of employees believe Covid vaccinations should be made mandatory for workers returning to the office, a survey has found.
The poll of 2,000 workers, conducted by Glassdoor, found 56 per cent thought there should be a requirement for staff to have had a Covid vaccination before they go back to the office.
One in seven (14 per cent) workers went as far as saying they would hand in their notice if they were required to return before all employees had been vaccinated.
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Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said employers should be doing all they can to encourage their employees to get vaccinated, including being flexible about working hours or offering paid time off to allow workers to make vaccination appointments. But, she said: “The government hasn't made the vaccine mandatory, so employers shouldn't either.
"Employers must also be careful not to stigmatise or discriminate against those who don't get the vaccine either because they can't or choose not to. It's also really important that organisations continue to follow all Covid-secure guidelines now and as they navigate any return to work in the future, closely following government advice.”
The Glassdoor poll found more than two-thirds of employees (68 per cent) also wanted social distancing measures and mask wearing to continue after everyone in the office had been vaccinated.
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Tom Neil, senior adviser at Acas, said it could also be helpful for businesses and managers to speak to employees about the benefits of vaccination: “Having open discussions with staff about the vaccine can help to reduce concerns they may have, thereby encouraging them to protect their health, while maintaining good working relationships.”
More than a third of those polled by Glassdoor (39 per cent) thought employers should offer financial incentives such as bonuses to encourage staff to get vaccinated. And of the 12 per cent of respondents who said they did not intend to get vaccinated, a quarter said they would be more likely to do so if their employer provided an incentive.
Anne Sammon, partner at Pinsent Masons, said the youngest employees who aren’t clinically vulnerable – the lowest priority group in the vaccination rollout – will likely have received their jabs by the end of July, a factor she said could affect any employer’s policy on vaccination. But, she said, there would undoubtedly be employees who remained unvaccinated.
“There will be a proportion of the workforce that choose not to be vaccinated – the reasons for this are likely to be diverse and may be justified. For example, the current advice is that pregnant women should not receive the vaccine,” she said, adding that employers needed to be mindful of their obligations under the Equality Act before making any decisions that could adversely affect those who aren’t vaccinated.
Rachael Cage, associate solicitor for Bird & Bird, added that businesses needed to be aware of the data protection implications of any vaccination policy. “Vaccine data may be treated as special category data for data privacy purposes, so employers also need to be conscious of this when storing information on staff vaccines,” she said.
"In the months ahead, HR teams will be pivotal in effectively consulting with the workforce, drafting practical and appropriate vaccination policies, and ensuring appropriate checks and balances are in place to enforce the company’s vaccination policy legally.”
In the Glassdoor poll a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents said they were under pressure from their employer to return to the office as soon as they’d been vaccinated. However, two in five (40 per cent), said their employer has not yet communicated a clear plan to staff regarding timing and policies for returning to the office.
Carina Cortez, chief people officer at Glassdoor, said employers needed to be working on their office re-entry plan. “It seems UK employees are unwilling to be rushed back into the office, so we recommend each employer takes into account employee feedback to determine what is best for their workforce, including a policy on whether vaccinations will be compulsory,” Cortez said.
“This is an incredibly sensitive area but the bigger opportunity here is to define what office life will be like, both this year and in the long term.”