The topic of whether or not to have a vaccine is a contentious one. It evokes lots of emotions – and that is why it needs to be handled carefully by business owners and managers.
Ideally, you should create an open and honest work environment that everyone is comfortable in. Differing opinions can make the workplace more difficult… but there are always ways to make sure all your employees feel comfortable, regardless of their vaccination status.
You are allowed to encourage your employees to have the Covid vaccine. After all, you want them all to be safe and well, and can therefore argue that it is in their best interest.
However, unless you are in the Healthcare Sector, vaccinations are not mandatory. If you try and force any of your employees to have their vaccine, your behaviour could be seen as discriminatory.
You may disagree with an employee’s stance on the pandemic and/or vaccines, but they are entitled to their opinion. All you can do is encourage vaccine uptake, but if you are told “no”, you should respect what is said.
If staff don’t want to have a vaccine, you should respect their decisions as much as they should respect your need to keep staff safe. Your priority is to keep everyone safe, regardless of what their personal opinions are.
Protect your employees’ privacy
Make it very clear to all of your employees that they have the right to refuse to answer any questions about vaccinations. They should not feel pressured into having discussions about this topic.
You never know, someone may have a fear of needles, they may not trust vaccines, or they may have trauma associated with vaccinations. They do not have to justify their stance to you or any other employee.
Send every employee an internal email that mentions they don’t have to talk about vaccinations, and which asks everyone to refrain from pressuring others to have a vaccine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and they should not be bullied or made to feel bad if they aren’t vaccinated.
If you find out that one of your employees is not vaccinated, don’t tell everyone. Let them be the ones to tell others, if they choose to. Their vaccination status should be kept private unless they are happy to talk about it.
Carry out lateral flow tests
Some of your employees may feel uncomfortable working with people who are not vaccinated. To combat this, you can ask all your employees to carry out regular lateral flow tests. This can be done independently of vaccines/discussing vaccines, and is therefore an excellent middle-ground for your business.
You can encourage your employees to take a lateral flow test every week – or even more regularly, if they are happy to do so. Furthermore, if one of your employees tests positive for Covid, ask them to follow government guidelines.
You may find that more people need to work from home until their self-isolation period has passed. Your business should do everything possible to make this transition to homeworking as smooth as possible. After all, in the event of a positive Covid test, it is the only way to keep people safe.
Encourage Social Distancing
When you practice social distancing, fewer people are put at risk. Those who have and those who have not had a vaccination can work in the same area if they socially distance. You can achieve this in your workplace when you:
- Put up screens around work areas
- Supply hand gel/sanitizer
- Encourage the use of face masks in the office or enclosed spaces
All of these things can help people to feel more reassured when they come to work. The more comfortable your employees feel, the better they will perform in the workplace.
Handling the delicate topic of vaccinations
The subject of vaccinations is a delicate one. However, if it is handled appropriately, it does not necessarily need to cause arguments.
Encourage your employees to talk to you about any concerns they have about being in the workplace. Listen to their ideas about working safely and do what you can to keep them all reassured and comfortable.
After all, when your employees feel safe, they are more likely to be productive.