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March 2021 - Newsletter - Updates

05 Mar 2021

COVID-19: Vaccination and the workplace

The vaccination programme is gathering pace. With a recent survey suggesting that 23% of employers plan to require their staff to be vaccinated, and talk in the press of 'no jab, no job' work contracts, what exactly are you allowed to do when it comes to managing vaccination-related workplace issues and risks?

Can employers require all staff to be vaccinated?

Probably not. Although the government has powers to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases, it doesn't have the power to require people to undergo medical treatment. This includes vaccination.

The government's Green Book on immunisation states that consent from the individual is needed before any medical treatment, including all vaccines.

The government appear to have no plans to change this, repeatedly emphasising that people won't be forced to have a vaccine if they don't want one.

All of this makes it difficult for you to automatically insist on it. So, too, does the statement from Acas that 'Employers should support staff in getting the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, but they cannot force staff to be vaccinated'.

Can employers require certain staff to be vaccinated?

Possibly, but the position isn't clear. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does require you to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all your employees. A similar duty exists under the general law. On its own, that's probably still not enough to justify mandatory vaccination, but it might be relevant background in some cases.

That's because an employee has a duty under the general law to obey the lawful and reasonable orders of their employer. Acas have suggested that you should only decide it's necessary for staff to be vaccinated 'if getting the vaccine is required for someone to do their job' (e.g. if staff travel to other countries for work). Others have suggested a more nuanced approach, where reasonableness is a question of degree. Relevant considerations may include the nature of the role, the circumstances of each employee, the risks to other staff or people they encounter, and the workplace's size/layout.

On this basis, it may be reasonable – for example – to require healthcare staff or teachers and support staff to be vaccinated. But it's less likely to be reasonable for staff who have limited contact with others and for whom other protective measures can be put in place.

A key question is likely to be whether vaccination provides greater protection than other measures. It's not yet known for sure that vaccination reduces or prevents transmission of COVID-19 (trials are ongoing). If it's found that it doesn't, it's unlikely that you can successfully argue that compulsory vaccination is proportionate to keep others safe.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers here – you'll need to get legal advice if you think requiring vaccination may be justified as it'll depend hugely on your circumstances.

Can employers put vaccination requirements into staff contracts?

You might want to change an employee's contract to add a compulsory vaccination requirement. However, this is potentially problematic. You'll need their agreement – if you make the change without it, you'll be in breach of contract and the original terms of the contract will remain in place. The employee then has options:

  • They can waive the breach by continuing to work without complaint under the new terms.
  • They can work under the new terms under protest and claim for breach of contract. If the change imposed is substantial, you might be deemed to have dismissed the employee, meaning they could also claim for unfair dismissal.
  • If the breach of contract is fundamental, they can resign and claim for constructive dismissal.

It may be easier to only insert the vaccination requirement into contracts for new staff. However, unless you're recruiting significant numbers of people, this is unlikely to result in any greater protection for your overall workforce. It potentially also opens you up to discrimination claims (more on this below).

In short, it's currently risky – don't try and make vaccinations a part of staff contracts without getting legal advice first.

Can employers take action against staff who refuse to be vaccinated?

Assuming you've legitimately introduced a compulsory vaccination policy or a contractual vaccination requirement, then, in theory, yes you can. But it's not without risks.

Obviously, you can't physically enforce a vaccination – that would be a criminal offence. There are potentially 2 actions you might consider:

  • Refusing to allow the employee to come to work (i.e. a suspension on medical grounds); or
  • Starting disciplinary proceedings.

An employee suspended on medical grounds is entitled to full pay for up to 26 weeks. If you start disciplinary proceedings, you could suspend them pending the outcome to ensure the safety of others, but they're entitled to full pay until the proceedings are concluded.

In both cases, you'll have to properly take into account the employee's circumstances. There are many reasons why they might reasonably refuse a vaccine: e.g. medical advice, religious or philosophical belief, pregnancy, disability, wanting to keep control over their medical choices or wanting to wait for more evidence of safety.

Some might even be advised not to have the vaccine due to a medical condition or may have severe trypanophobia (fear of needles); both could mean they have a disability and be protected under the Equality Act 2010 if they refuse the vaccine. Note, though, that those with a history of anaphylaxis to food, an identified drug or vaccine, or an insect sting, have been advised that they can still receive any COVID-19 vaccine if they're not known to be allergic to any of its components. All vaccination sites should have equipment for managing an anaphylactic reaction.

If you compel an employee to get a vaccine and they then suffer an adverse reaction, they could try and bring a personal injury claim against you.

More evidence is needed before pregnant women are routinely offered the vaccine. Women who avoid vaccination because they are planning a pregnancy may be able to claim sex discrimination if, as a result, you treat them less favourably or later dismiss them.

Ultimately, any policy or contractual requirement about vaccination that adversely affects people from a protected group (race, age, sex, disability and religion/belief being the most likely) will potentially be indirectly discriminatory. A dismissal resulting from the implementation of such a policy or requirement may well be unfair.

It's worth noting, though:

  • The COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK don't use pork gelatine and are endorsed by the British Islamic Medical Association, Hindu Council UK, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. That doesn't, though, stop religious objections on other grounds.
  • While veganism is a protected belief, the Vegan Society accepts that vaccination 'will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives' and encourages vegans to look after their health and that of others. Of course, though, the Vegan Society doesn't represent all vegans.
  • Anti-vaccination beliefs based on a wide variety of conspiracy theories may not be protected as a philosophical belief. That's because there isn't an adequately coherent belief system behind them and such beliefs may not be worthy of respect in a democratic society. That doesn't stop such beliefs from being protected if the basis for them exists less at the fringes.

The critical point is that you must always allow for exceptions. Listen to any concerns and objections and take them seriously. Even if you've put in place a policy or contractual requirement, you won't be entitled to act on it if your employee's refusal is reasonable in all the circumstances.

Pressuring employees to be vaccinated, through threats of suspension or disciplinary action, carries very real and potentially significant legal and financial risks. It could also negatively affect your business reputation and staff morale.

A better approach is to encourage staff to be vaccinated – educate them on the benefits of vaccination by providing impartial, factual information to help them make an informed decision.

Can employers relax safety measures after vaccination?

The short answer is no. England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned that people who have received their vaccination must still obey social-distancing rules. Businesses continue, therefore, to be required to risk assess their workplaces and take steps to ensure they're COVID-secure, through measures such as home working, social distancing, face coverings and so on.

It's still too early to say whether widespread vaccination will eventually reduce the measures required to make a workplace COVID-secure. It may be a long time before enough people are vaccinated; it's very unlikely that any vaccine will be 100% effective, and there will always be those who cannot receive a vaccine.

You should therefore be cautious about treating the vaccine as a mechanism to remove other measures. Instead, continue to follow government guidance and monitor it for changes.

However, vaccination might alter your approach for some clinically highly vulnerable staff. Having the vaccine means these workers can better protect themselves and, subject to an individual risk assessment and both vaccine doses, they may be able to finish shielding and return to the workplace (if it's essential that they do so).

Finally, keep in mind that you may need to take extra steps to protect any staff who have a genuine medical reason that prevents vaccination.

What about data protection implications?

If you collect any information about whether employees have (or haven't) been vaccinated, you must handle it as special category data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. The ICO have recently added guidance on vaccinations to their 'Data protection and coronavirus information hub' to help you do this.

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If you are looking for support with your team or any training needs please feel to contact us:
 
Enquiries@Glenys-Bridges.co.uk
 
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I have just completed the advanced dental practice management skills S3 and I have learned so much from the course. It has given me the tools and knowledge to put what I have learned in daily practice. It's given me the confidence and empowerment to put my new found skills into action. The student portal is very east to navigate and the ongoing support from Glenys has been fantastic and never felt under any pressure as you are able to go at your own pace. To have a formal practice management qualification is a great feeling. Many thanks Glenys.

Claire Maloney, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills S3

I have learned so much form completing this course. I am able to put all aspects into daily practice and the improvements made have been very beneficial both to myself and my employer. I was very fortunate to be under the wing of Glenys who supported me through both my professional and personal life. The amount of encouragement I received has truly made a long lasting impression on me. I have developed as a person as well as a leader for my team. I cant recommend Glenys and the course highly enough and I think it should be a necessity for all CQC registered Managers to complete. This course has encouraged me to develop me knowledge and career much much further and I cant wait to see what results I get! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

Sammi Coidan, Level 5 Diploma for Dental CQC Registered Managers (RQF)

This course is very informative it gets you thinking of how to deal with complex situations. i am thoroughly enjoying this course and it has been challenging at times but Glenys has dealt with how I understand the concept of management

DL, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills S3

Fantastic well structured course. It made clinical governance and auditing process so much more simpler to carry out.

Nirav Thakker, Getting it Right- Clinical Governance and Audit

The first steps in Implant Dental Nursing course has given me all the basic knowledge I require to start Implant nursing.Emma has been an amazing tutor and has given me so many tips and advice. The course has really helped me with understand what I can and can’t do when I have donned and sterile. It has also taught me the terminology I need and how I can track the patients progress which I stered using in practice straight away. Brilliant course and would recommend it to anyone starting out with Implants

Hannah Berwick, First Steps in Implant Dental Nursing

I can not thank Becki enough for her amazing tutoring throughout this course. Her knowledge and experience gave me a real insight into the role of a Practice Management. Becki was always patient and went the extra mile to ensure I was getting the most out of the course - thank you Becki! The student portal was very easy to use and the course material provided was very informative. I would highly recommend Glenys Bridges and I look forward to my journey as a qualified Practice Manager.

Hana Iqbal, Level 4 Dental Practice Management

I started the introduction to team leading skills for dental nurses and carried on to the higher skills for lead dental nurses. The course has given me lots of new ideas to help with my team and given me a greater understanding of my role as a lead dental nurse. It taught me things that I never realised are part of my job role and I’m looking forward to getting more involved in different areas at my practice. Glenys was very flexible with tutorial times and worked around when I was free and set achievable goals that suited my work and home life. I would definitely recommend this course to lead dental nurses and I can’t wait to start my next course!

Hannah Berwick, Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses- S2 Home

I found this course extremely helpful in explaining how I as a dental nurse can help to assist the dentists and the patient during a rubber dam procedure. I am interested in completing further training in placing rubber dam myself, especially with the current circumstances p.

Hannah Berwick , Introduction to rubber dam for dental nurses-Individual CPD

It helped me understand why a rubber dam is used

Ss, Introduction to rubber dam for dental nurses-Individual CPD

I really enjoyed learning what it takes to become a care coordinator and the skills needed. Emma was such a great help in developing my knowledge beyond my potential. I am really grateful that that I had her as a tutor as she made me gain further understanding of how this role should be applied in practice. I am looking forward to put this new qualification to use and I hope to pick up more qualifications from this platform :)

Sarah Nsiah- Amoakoh, Higher Skills in Dental Care Coordination

I found this implant dental nursing ECPD course extremely useful. I am the lead dental nurse at my practice and we are in the process of our new implantologist starting. I knew nothing about implant nursing before this course but now I know terminology, the difference between a sterilised nurse and a non sterilised nurse, the correct way to set up the surgery and so much more. This has given me the basic knowledge I require to assist our implantologist.

Hannah Berwick, Introduction to Implant Dental Nursing- Individual CPD

My third course with Glenys and I would definitely recommend to anyone great help along the way and flexible tutorial times ! Can’t wait to start the next one!!

Lucy Willis, Lead Roles for Care Excellence 2020-Active In-house virtual CPD

My third course with Glenys and I would definitely recommend to anyone great help along the way and flexible tutorial times ! Can’t wait to start the next one!!

Lucy Willis, Lead Roles for Care Excellence 2020-Active In-house virtual CPD

I recently completed the Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses S-1. I have 20 years experience of working as a dental nurse and stepped into the role of a lead nurse a few years ago. Although I am a very experienced nurse I initially found stepping into this role a bit tough as I wasn't used to managing others and didn't like asking the other nurses to do things. I would actually do them by myself rather than ask. Throughout this course I learnt that it is important to allocate and delegate tasks to the other nurses.This gives me time to do other tasks I have to do and also makes the other nurses role more enjoyable as they are being given the opportunity to do something different. I had Edita as my tutor and she was fantastic. She was very upbeat and passionate when we had our tutorials each week. Her passion also made me feel motivated. This course and Editas support made me believe in myself. I would highly recommend and look forward to doing further training with Glenys Bridges in the future. The best part of this course for me was gaining my Certificate of Acheivement.

Lisa Clark, Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses -S 1

I have been a member of the Glenys Bridges team for over a two and a half years, and have been treated with respect and care ever since. Glenys is very professional, enlightening and insightful to individual student needs. My tutoring sessions with her are really amazing and transformative for me, and she helped me to progress from a Lead dental nurse to Practice Manager. I was going through a rough time and I wasn't sure I would make it, but she showed me that I am important and helped me get through the tough time. Thank you for the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed working with you, and I feel it has been a valuable experience. I have already recommended your services and will continue to do so!

Patrycja Galonzka , Level 5 Diploma for Dental CQC Registered Managers (RQF)

I have completed the Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses course with the amazing tutor Edita. Edita is such a warm and friendly person with unavailable knowledge and experience. She helped me to go through the whole course smoothly, without stress and always with good advice. During all tutorials, Edita was giving me support and she motivated me to believe in myself and my future. The skills and knowledge I gained during this course help me every day at work to be a good and confident Lead Nurse. I put into practice everything I have learned and I love to share my knowledge with my colleagues. I would higtly recommend all courses provided by Glenys Bridges and Partners to everyone

Justyna P, Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses- S2 Home

This course has been extremely enlightening, useful and enjoyable. The workshops for me were the highlight of the course as its great to interact with others and have all that lovely information explained to you. As I am about to help set up a new business the whole course has set me up to do this with knowledge , tools and confidence. Glenys is a great tutor and offered as much support as I felt I needed and never put me under pressure. I feel sad I have finished the course but hope to attend workshops run by Glenys in the future. Many thanks Sandra Kudla

Sandra Kudla, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills S3

I am a mature student and without the encouragement and the belief I my ability I truly believe I would not have been able to complete the course. As a result of completing this course I feel that as a Dental Nurse I have both gained confidence in myself and my ability and have a wealth of new knowledge to use in my job. I can not thank you enough Edita x you are amazing x

Heidi, Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses -S 1

I've just completed my Course in High skills in Dental Care Coordination and I honestly couldn't recommend Glenys Bridges enough. Had continuous support from Edita my tutor throughout the Course to help me achieve it! The webiste is simple and easy to use to upload work. I have gained great knowledge on Care Coordination and I am very happy I did my course with Glenys Bridges! Highly Recommend

Zoe , Higher Skills in Dental Care Coordination

This course was a great course to complete alongside my working week. I was able to complete studies at my own pace and receive support from tutors whenever needed. The high point of this course was learning how to performance manage and support my staff effectively to ensure they develop fully in their career. This also means that the business get the best out of their staff. I have benefited hugely from this course as it has given me the confidence to manage my practice effectively and provided me with the knowledge to apply to my work. The tutor support with Gleny's Bridges is second to none. I was able to receive support and advice whenever needed. I would definitely recommend them as a course provider.

Amy Littler , Level 4 Dental Practice Management

I found the course really helped me as I'm newly lead nurse. I found Becki really helped me with different approaches to leading my team. I even spoke to Becki about helping me with preparation to selling our practice. Becki is a great teacher and really cares for the people she helps.

ET, Introduction to Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses-

Dear Glenys and Edita, The course, Introduction to Team Leading was extremely informative and the approach/teaching was very professional. The one day worship help me recognise differences between being a Manager and Team Leader, and give me an opportunity to gain initial knowledge how to communicate and inspire Dental Nurse Team. I am very keen to enhance my skills and knowledge in this direction.

AB, Introduction to Team Leading for Dental Nurses- Workshop

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