News & Insights

No jab, no job?

We report on the updated Acas guidance with additional details regarding the coronavirus vaccination and workplace testing.

Although there is seemingly some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel – the coronavirus requires employers to constantly stay on top of the guidance. The changing picture of the virus and its impact means it can sometimes be difficult to follow all the latest information, but this month Acas has rather usefully updated its guidance on workplace safety measures. This update comes in light of the increase in vaccinations across the country and the increased possibility of workplace testing for the virus.

The guidance includes a new “Testing staff for coronavirus” section which sets out what good practice for employers would entail. This would include discussing the testing with staff who should agree to the implementation of workplace testing. This also includes how testing would work, how staff get results and how the employer plans to use and store testing data in line with the UK GDPR.

Some staff will be concerned about testing and the results it may produce. Therefore, the guidance recommends that it would welcome employers considering paying their staff at their usual rates if they are required to take time away due to a positive test or furloughing them. At this stage it is unclear whether the furlough scheme can be used for employees who fail tests – we will keep you updated with any developments on this front.

There is now also guidance with regards to “Getting the coronavirus vaccine for work”. This includes how employers can support staff to get the vaccine. The guidance is similar to the testing element in that it also recommends that employers could consider offering paid time off for vaccination appointments and full pay, not just statutory sick pay, if staff need time off due to illness as a result of vaccine side effects. The guidance advises that it is normally always best for employers to support staff to get the vaccine without going as far as making it a requirement. Anything more onerous than this should be recorded in writing – employers could even consider drafting a policy in relation to vaccinations.

The previous guidance has been updated reasonably significantly, for example it no longer says that “Employers cannot force staff to be vaccinated”. This indicates that the guidance is ever changing and not straightforward. This is an issue employers will need to become familiar with and we are here to help if you have any questions over the coming months.