This is a question we’ve been asked several times this week (and it’s only Wednesday!).
Vaccines are not mandatory for the population in the UK and we do not expect to see vaccines made mandatory for staff who work in education or childcare. Unlike care homes that have had mandatory vaccination for those who come inside since 11th November and health and social care providers who have to ensure their staff are vaccinated by 1st April 2022.
Employers can encourage vaccination and do so under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. It is one of the employer’s responsibilities to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the health and safety of its employees. However, requiring employees to be vaccinated would be difficult to argue as a reasonable health and safety measure as being vaccinated does not mean you won’t become infected nor does it mean you can’t pass on the infection to others.
Measures that are thought to be health and safety measures include:
- Hygiene and infection control
- Wearing of face masks (as Coronavirus is airborne)
- Increased hand washing
- Lateral Flow testing to detect asymptomatic infected individuals
- Social Distancing
- Ventilation and monitoring air quality
All of these are viewed in relation to the specific COVID Risk Assessment for the setting and Day Nurseries are to follow the current guidance as published in the Actions for Early Years document.
We feel that a policy of ‘no jab, no job’ would lead to:
- Employee Relations issues – staff wanting to leave as they dislike the employer’s approach even if vaccinated.
- Increased difficulty in hiring staff – again staff may be reluctant to join an employer who mandates vaccination even if vaccinated.
- Accusations of discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief, disability and age.
- Claims of constructive dismissal when terms are varied.
The difference employers in health and social care have from employers in childcare is that the Government have mandated the requirement in the form of regulations. Therefore the employers are just following what they are required to do.
We feel the biggest driver for requesting employees to be vaccinated is the impact of the Government policy introduced in August 2021, whereby individuals who are not double vaccinated have to self isolate for 10 days if a close contact of a positive case. Whilst since December employers can reclaim the self-isolation SSP for 2 weeks per individual, this doesn’t cover the ‘true’ cost of the employees absence.
However, due to the risk of a claim and the other risks explained in this article our advice remains that it is not advisable to make vaccination mandatory in your Day Nursery.
If you have any questions about vaccines, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01527 909436.