Most employers want the right to ask their staff if they have received a Covid-19 vaccination, it has emerged.
A new survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and Industrial Relations News found that 56% of employers want the right to ask, while 39% also want the right to seek proof of vaccination.
However, recent guidance from the Data Protection Commission warns that there is no legal basis for “unnecessary and excessive” collection of data regarding employees’ vaccination status. It says the processing of health data in response to Covid-19 should be guided by the Government’s public health policies.
Almost half the employers surveyed by CIPD and IRN said they had no plan in place for staff who haven’t received a vaccine, though 38% said unvaccinated staff could continue to work from home.
A significant minority of 18% said unvaccinated staff “should not be permitted to enter the workplace,” while 8% said they should “forfeit the option to partake in blended working.”
Official Health and Safety Authority (HSA) guidance says that employers of workers who refuse Covid-19 vaccinations should undertake a risk assessment in cases where the staff member could be exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace.
The agency says some employers may have “no option” but to redeploy unvaccinated staff if they are “not safe to perform certain work tasks.”
In fact, a strong majority of those with access to the vaccination have had the jab, and the HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry says Ireland is “the envy of Europe” in terms of vaccination uptake.
So far over 2.3 million people here have had a jab, and over 1.2 million have had two doses.
Fórsa official Dessie Robinson – a former HSA board member who is currently part of a National Economic and Social Council team examining the psychological impact of Covid – said existing health and safety regulation is robust in this area.
“The safety, health and welfare at work regulations require employers to make effective vaccines available if a biological agent gives rise to a risk. They also say vaccinations should be provided for free, and that the employee must be informed of the benefits and drawbacks,” he said.
But Dessie added that the regulations don’t explicitly state that an employee who refuses vaccination must be risk assessed and potentially redeployed.
“That’s why the HSA recommends the application of health and safety principles of risk assessment and avoidance of risk. Under the law, employers must provide a safe place to work ‘as far as is practicable.’ This means they must take all measures within their control to ensure the safety of the workplace.
“If an employee refuses vaccination, that decision increases the risk to them and their family. That would be very difficult to defend, especially considering the exceptional circumstances of this pandemic,” he said.
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