16 April 2021 #Employment
The Government continues to consider whether ‘Covid status certificates’ or ‘vaccine passports’ could be rolled out as part of the road map out of lockdown. Last week it was reported that steps were being taken to draw up a scheme.
This begs the question of whether employers could demand their employees provide some form of COVID-19 status certification too for the workplace? Specifically, can they demand to know whether employees have been vaccinated?
Research released this week by recruitment agency Randsand revealed that, 72% of UK workers survey said they would not feel safe in the office unless their colleagues had been vaccinated. Some employers may think that knowing vaccine status is therefore paramount to ensuring staff feel safe in the workplace.
We have previously blogged on whether employers can enforce vaccinations amongst staff. Demanding to know vaccine status engages some similar issues.
Although each case would turn on its individual facts, an employer could demand to know an employee’s vaccine status if the employment contract expressly sets out that this must be disclosed as part of employment.
Most employers are unlikely to have such a clause relating to existing staff. However, employers could make this a requirement for new hires by issuing a contract setting out that the individual must declare their vaccine status as a condition of their employment.
It should be noted that there is nothing to prevent employers from asking their employees whether they have been vaccinated. However, employers should be mindful of how they respond to those who refuse to share information, or those who disclose they are not or have not received the vaccine. Depending on the reason, there could be risk of discrimination if the employee is subjected to less favourable treatment as a result of their non-disclosure.
Many employers may deem it relevant to demand to know vaccine status as part of conducting a risk assessment to ensure health and safety. The Government has been updating its advice to employers across all sectors throughout the pandemic on how to ensure workplaces are ‘Covid secure’. Currently vaccine status does not form part of this guidance and so it is unlikely that an employer will be able to rely on health and safety arguments to force colleagues to disclose whether or not they have been vaccinated. However, this could change if COVID-19 status certificates are brought in and so this is something we are tracking.
Presumably, if the public are required to show a ‘vaccine passport’ to enter certain venues or events, this would suggest that the staff working in such venues will have too as well.
With the ‘work from home if you can’ instruction in place until 21 June at the earliest, knowing vaccine status may not be an issue for many employers at this time. However, we expect that this is on the horizon for many businesses keen to get their staff back in the workplace, as soon as they are able.
We will continue to provide updates on COVID-19 status certifications relevant to the workforce as soon as we know more.