FAQ: Managing the vaccine rollout with your staff

Alan Price – Chief Operations Officer

April 06 2021

By the end of July, your entire workforce could be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.

And between now and then, you’ll need to make decisions about your vaccine policy. To manage the rollout with zero staff conflict or HR headaches, read our commonly-asked questions…

Can I ask whether my staff will take the vaccine or not?

A vaccinated workplace is safer for everyone. But if lots of your staff plan to reject the vaccine, you’ll need to take extra steps to protect them.

So if you’d like to know the level of uptake in your business, you could ask staff if they’re likely to accept the vaccine. To do this, you could carry out a confidential and voluntary survey.

Remember, taking the vaccine is a personal choice – and staff could change their mind at any time. So you should avoid making lasting decisions as a result of your survey, like choosing to work remotely.

If you discover your workplace is vaccine-hesitant as a whole, try to boost confidence. This could mean booking a vaccine awareness course or sharing reliable resources.

Can I discipline staff who are influencing others to refuse the vaccine?

Taking the vaccine is a personal choice. But if an employee is spreading false and harmful information, it could prevent other staff from taking the vaccine. And that could put your whole workforce at risk. 

It’s reasonable to ask staff not to express opinions that cause offence. If an employee’s opinions are significantly harming others – like causing them to refuse the vaccine – you could take steps to discipline them.

Before taking action, speak to your employee first. They might have personal fears about the vaccine, which you could ease by sharing reliable resources and reassuring data.

Can I require staff to take the vaccine?

Requiring your staff to take a COVID-19 vaccine is still a grey area.

Taking the vaccine isn’t a legal requirement. And while there’s rumours of compulsory vaccination in the care sector, it’s unlikely to be the case for other industries. So it’s tricky to require vaccination without changing your employees’ contracts.

While that is possible, your staff could raise a dispute. And if you discipline or dismiss staff for not taking the vaccine, you could face a constructive or unfair dismissal claim.

Plus, you also need to think about discrimination – some staff could refuse the vaccine for religious beliefs or health concerns. And if employees fall under protected characteristics, they could claim for discrimination.

In some sectors, it could be worth the risk. It could be that your staff regularly deal with patients who are vulnerable to COVID-19. And if social distancing isn’t possible, you have a clear reason to enforce vaccines.

But if you’re not dealing with vulnerable people and social distancing is possible, it’s harder to justify. Instead, it’s best to encourage your staff to take the vaccine.

How can I encourage vaccine uptake in my workplace?

As an employer, it’s up to you to promote vaccine uptake in your workplace.

First, you can share reliable news about the vaccine. Stick to official sources like the NHS website or the World Health Organisation. Sharing these resources could help prevent false information spreading around your workplace.

You could even invite an external trainer to visit your workplace and explain why vaccines are safe and effective.

And for extra support, consider offering paid leave for vaccine appointments and time off for workers with side effects.

Can I ask an employee if they’ve had a vaccination before hiring them?

While it’s risky to enforce vaccination for your current employees, you can expect new staff to take the vaccine.

To do this, you need to update your contract for any new starters. Then, you can share your position on vaccines before or during the interview process. This will help you avoid any vaccine-related disputes further down the line.

However, you need to be careful. If you do this straight away, younger applicants could still be waiting to receive the vaccine – and not hiring them as a result could be age discrimination.

And remember that some applicants might have valid reasons for refusing the vaccine. As these could fall under protected characteristics, you can’t prevent these people from applying.

Can I ask for proof of vaccination?

You can ask staff to share proof of vaccination. This makes it easier to keep track of who’s had the vaccine in your business – helping you make more informed decisions to keep your people safe.  

If you do this, bear in mind GDPR rules. You should remove any personal information as soon as you no longer need it. Plus, you need to make it clear how you plan to use and store staff information.   

With BrightHR’s VaccTrak, you can securely record any proof and documents with unlimited storage. And when you need to track vaccine uptake, you’ll find all the information you need at the tap of a button.

How can I prevent stigma if staff refuse to take the vaccine?

If a staff member refuses the vaccine, they could face hostile treatment from other employees. And as an employer, it’s your responsibility to handle any staff conflict.

To prevent conflict, it’s important to educate your staff about why somebody might refuse. Talk about certain health conditions or religious beliefs that could prevent someone from taking the vaccine.

Being mindful about these issues and flagging them to your staff could reduce any stigma.

Expert support throughout the vaccine rollout

As the rollout continues to ramp up across the UK, you’ll need to navigate unknown HR territory. To help you prevent any staff confusion and disputes, our experts can:

  • Create your workplace vaccine policy
  • Offer 24/7 employment and legal advice
  • Help you resolve any workplace conflict

Ready for unlimited HR support? To get started, simply call 0800 028 2420 today.

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