How companies are dealing with employees choosing not to get the COVID jab

Covid vaccinations have been introduced to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and lower the risk if contracted. There has been a high vaccine uptake in the UK; however, some workers have not been vaccinated due to health reasons or personal beliefs.

Companies must learn to cater to these workers so that they are not discriminated against while still keeping the workplace safe.

This blog will showcase how companies deal with employees who choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccination and how they can manage these employees, examining government advice and how other companies interpret this to look after their employees.

Why are workers not getting vaccinated?

There are multiple reasons why people throughout the pandemic have chosen not to get vaccinated, despite widespread campaigns to encourage vaccination.

Even pre-pandemic vaccine hesitancy has been due to confidence in the various vaccines, complacency (the need for the vaccination), and convenience (ease of access).

Additionally, many might not be able to take the vaccine because of health problems. Some people are worried about the vaccine’s potential side effects, despite the main side effects associated with it being mild and short term.

Since COVID is a mild illness for most people, many don’t believe vaccination is necessary because COVID-19 doesn’t pose a severe risk to their health. Therefore, they don’t want the “risk” of a vaccine.

When researching the attitudes of people refusing the vaccine, studies have shown that participants often talked about the speed with which the COVID-19 vaccines had been developed. Some have concerns that not enough time had passed to see that there would be no long-term effects.

However, while other vaccines have taken longer to develop, prior research has already been done on similar viruses. There was an unprecedented level of global cooperation to create the COVID-19 vaccine.

As seen throughout the pandemic, misinformation has also played a considerable role in preventing people from getting the vaccine, created by distrust in the government and the vaccine manufacturers and the spread of misinformation through social media.

As a company, you can help direct employees to official sources of information that clarify this misinformation and help to promote vaccination.

How are companies dealing with non-vaccinated workers?

Companies need to understand why workers might choose not to get vaccinated to ensure all workers are treated fairly. There are measures that companies can take to deal with un-vaccinated workers; however, they must take them with care to ensure that no employee is discriminated against.

As a company, you can promote getting the vaccine in the workplace and direct employees towards the government vaccination campaign. Companies can also offer paid time off for vaccination appointments and time off for illness due to any potential side effects.

Due to the high uptake of the vaccine in the UK, it’s unlikely that a vaccine mandate will be brought into effect, aside from some parts of the health and care sector. Therefore, there is no legal responsibility for the company to encourage vaccination. However, the government has issued guidance highlighting the benefits of doing so.

An example of this is through senior leadership in the company showing support for vaccination. Open conversations with the employees about vaccination experiences can help to dissuade vaccine fears and help un-vaccinated workers understand why others have chosen to be vaccinated. However, employers should be sensitive toward personal situations and be careful to avoid discrimination or infringe on data collection regulations (GDPR).

Morrison’s has recently followed other businesses in cutting the sick pay of unvaccinated workers if they are required to isolate after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive. This is an example of a growing trend of businesses growing impatient with the continued disruption caused by the pandemic. It is designed as a stronger motivation for its workers to get vaccinated.

Similar actions by businesses and the government’s apparent change of mind in bringing in a vaccine mandate for the whole health and care sector have been extensively debated, with many unvaccinated people still refusing the vaccine.

Companies must be careful when attempting similar tactics. It remains to be seen whether this will be effective in the long run, especially with the uncertainty around the government following through with the vaccine mandate.

A mixture of promoting the use of vaccines and ensuring that COVID guidelines are being kept in the office is a less intrusive way of managing unvaccinated workers whilst keeping all employees safe.

The future of the pandemic and non-vaccinated workers

As the effects of the pandemic continue to be seen, companies must keep themselves aware of the current COVID guidelines and, importantly, what other companies are starting to do to encourage vaccination.

Some questions remain over how long the vaccines offer protection and whether other booster jabs will be needed. These uncertainties will continue to affect companies dealing with unvaccinated workers or considering a vaccination policy.

Your company should continue to hold open conversations with its employees and keep them updated on any change you decide to implement to maintain a COVID free workplace.