Should employees be allowed time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
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As the UK’s vaccination effort continues to make progress, you might be wondering whether you’re required to provide time off work for employees’ vaccine appointments, and if you are, whether this time off must be paid.

The fact is that there’s no legal obligation for employers to give employees any time off for medical appointments. Having delved into it a little more, we were surprised to find that many businesses are sticking to the letter of law in the wake of Coronavirus.

A recent survey by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) showed that only 45% of 1,002 firms were committed to letting staff take time off work with pay once they were offered a vaccination appointment. Admittedly, this is an extremely small sample size, but if it’s representative then there will be many staff who are required to take unpaid leave to have their vaccination.

Is this the right way to go?

At citrus HR we think it’s probably not. And here are some of the reasons why…

Contractual rights for time off

Whilst there is no legal obligation for employers to give employees time off to get their vaccination, their contracts might say otherwise and contain additional rights to time off that go beyond what’s legally required. Before making any decisions, you should check your employees’ contracts and company policies to see if they contain any rights to time off for medical appointments, and if this time off will be paid or unpaid.

If you’re not sure where to start our expert HR Consultants can help, by advising you on the best direction to take based on your current employee contracts.

Health and Safety

Under Health and Safety law employers have a general duty to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks – encouraging employees to get vaccinated to protect themselves, colleagues and customers is one of the ways to reduce the risk of infection.

This is especially important in high-risk sectors like care, or those supporting vulnerable individuals. The more of your team that are vaccinated the lower the risk for their colleagues, and anyone else they come into contact with. Therefore, encouraging vaccine uptake in your workplace is likely to be a good thing.

Equality Act 2020

Employees who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable may have an underlying medical condition which might mean they are classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2020. Allowing these individuals time off for vaccination could be seen as a reasonable adjustment, and any blanket ban on time off could be seen as indirect discrimination.

Negative PR

During a time of national effort to get everyone vaccinated, not allowing employees time off for vaccination has the potential to cause reputational damage to your business. With 81% of the UK public pro-vaccine according to YouGov, this could harm your relationship with employees, and lower morale.

Ask yourself what is the right thing to do

After a year of restrictions, additional stress, health concerns and death is now the time to quibble over an hour or so of unpaid leave to keep your employees safe? Vaccination is one of the main routes that will see many businesses especially in hospitality, travel and leisure getting back on their feet.

Legally you don’t have to give staff paid time off to get their vaccine, but one could argue that as a business owner, morally you have a duty to do the right thing, and play your part in supporting the country getting back to the ‘new normal’ and encourage vaccine uptake.

To minimise disruption to your business you could consider:

  • Request vaccination appointments happen at the start, or end of the day.
  • Allow staff to make up the time, rather than losing pay.
  • Offer a small amount of paid time off if you are close enough to the vaccine centre, e.g., up to 2 hours.

 

How we can help

Navigating the HR issues that come with Coronavirus is tricky as it’s all new territory. It’s not simply about following the law, it’s about using our common sense to do the right thing because there are no laws or precedents set yet.

We can help, with unlimited HR advice and easy to understand help guides to give you peace of mind you’re doing HR the right way.

Why not send us an email at info@citrushr.com or call 0333 014 3888 and find out all the ways we can help your business.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

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