In these unprecedented times, people are wondering whether life will ever get back to the way it was before the pandemic. As many businesses closed due to COVID-19, employers and employees are curious as to how the return to the traditional world of work will take place, and what it will look like.
With the vaccination programme rolling out and the recent Government announcement that a return to offices can begin from the 20th September 2021, the question people want an answer to is whether there is a requirement for employees to show proof of vaccination to return to work?
This question has brought about a lot of debate, with many businesses saying that they would be acting irresponsibly if they fail to enquire about an employee’s vaccination status. There are however, groups that feel that to ask about an employee’s vaccination status would be to discriminate against unvaccinated people and amount to a breach of their constitutional rights.
This subject got a lot of public attention when three CNN employees were reportedly fired from coming into the office unvaccinated.
The Government’s Work Safely Protocol states that employees can make their own decision on whether or not to be vaccinated. Therefore, there is currently no legal requirement that an employee must be vaccinated to come to the office.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has also confirmed that employers cannot force their employees to be vaccinated. However, it recognises that there may be circumstances when allowing an unvaccinated employee to perform their obligations is deemed unsafe following a risk assessment. In such cases, it is suggested that the company consider redeployment with the employee’s consent.
A fair balance needs to be struck between an employee’s right to a private life and the protection of health and safety of those in workplaces.
For now, employers cannot mandate vaccination. Employers should however take steps to ensure that their employees are safe by ensuring that the recommended safety measures are implemented in the workplace including social distancing, masks etc.