By Caine Bird, Technical HR Writer at IRIS HR
The global pandemic has forced many businesses to search for a resolution to a problem with no obvious answer. How do you safely operate an office and prioritise employee wellbeing at the same time when there is a global health crisis underfoot?
The state of the current workforce feels more adaptable than since the early months of the pandemic, as employers and their workers respond to new demands and different working conditions. Reaching a new normality, employers are now wrestling with the tough decision of reviewing and revising new measures and assessments to keep the office safe. One of those – a vaccination mandate – would require employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office.
What is a vaccine mandate?
Vaccination mandate are, simply, a policy that would enforce compulsory vaccination on eligible employees. Only those who are vaccinated would be able to come into the office, or even resume working as normal in their posts.
It’s a controversial policy, but one that’s gaining popularity as workplaces begin to tighten safety controls within their offices. Behind vaccine mandates, employers are starting to feel they can better offer protection to their employees and businesses. That’s because a policy of this kind ensures that workers remain vaccinated, rather than allowing the vaccine to continue to be optional.
What about other businesses?
Across the country, many businesses have teamed up with HR professionals to revisit key workplace health and safety policies. These are, many would argue, mission critical to operational success in the near- and long-term future. That means working within government advice and guidance, but also preparing your workforce for new working conditions.
Ultimately, the compelling case of mandatory vaccination argues how vaccines can offer protection to wider communities and families outside of our offices. There’s a ‘greater good’ that mandatory vaccination can help achieve, by offer immunity not only to workers, but to population beyond a place of work too.
Mandatory vaccination was recently justified in the UK when the NHS delivered a similar, albeit larger in scope, policy to its frontline care workers. This has become evidence for why private businesses should consider a similar policy within their offices.
Vaccinations in the UK
Revealed by global Covid-19 statistics, vaccination programmes have reportedly been more effective in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Many countries in these territories have a highly vaccinated population, with markets like Spain, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore leading vaccination rates globally.
The UK, however, ranks only 15th globally, which means there has been a slow but gradual uptake of vaccinations. Although not as promising as Portugal or Canada, the UK shows a determined effort to continue its fight against COVID-19 with the likes of vaccination mandates and mass booster programmes.
There has been initial hesitation to adopt these policies widely in the UK, but that has not stopped companies from trying. Firms like Blackstone and publishing house Bloomsbury have both recently approved vaccination policies that will affect their workforce. In one of the most newsworthy headlines, Pimlico Plumbers even revealed how it would “rewrite” contracts to ensure its workforce remains vaccinated.
Other major global players, like the US, have struggled to deliver larger scale vaccination programmes to their working population. This slow uptake has caused a knee-jerk reaction of sorts from high profile brands and companies who are now enforcing mandatory vaccination to safeguard their employees. This is not a trend only amongst reputable tech giants alone like Google or Uber, but it captures a change that many businesses are willing to follow, including Walmart and Goldman Sachs. That’s because mandatory vaccination offers an interesting potential resolution to the challenges of keeping employees safe and protected when new COVID-19 variants are spreading.
Drafting vaccination policy
A fair vaccination policy can be drafted – without excluding non-eligible employees – by planning and shoring up a programme that seeks to create a safe and secure setting for everyone.
Here are the key areas of an effective vaccination policy:
According to the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (or Acas), it’s advisable to support staff when they become notified that they can receive vaccination.
Beforehand, employees may choose to disclose any medical reason as to why they cannot receive vaccination. Working closely with HR, employers should carefully nurture those not eligible and ensure their safety is also prioritised.
Where any policies might change, especially if it regards building use, employers will need to communicate with everyone, including staff, potential visitors, and clients. Larger policy changes should be effectively handled within a communication strategy, which will ultimately prioritise office compliance. This will, however, become complicated if a business has remote employees, or reduced office capacity.
To ensure you optimise these policies, consider the following questions:
- Does your staff know where theycan go to receive vaccination in the first place?
- How will policies affect the vaccination status of different staff?
- Are your employees expected to be testing regularly?
Collaboration with HR
The trouble with vaccination policies of this kind is not typically getting employees onboard with the scheme. Uptake for programmes can be surprisingly easier than many will plan for, but there will inevitably be those workers who refuse or resist compliance with any changes to their vaccination status. The trouble happens when a vaccination policy is poorly delivered as it results in high turnover, which was recently observed in the US press.
Every business leader should be proactively collaborating with HR teams to ensure staff expectations are firmly established. During this time of change, HR should prioritise retention plans to qualm any bubbling anxieties within a workplace. Where there is already a talent shortage, the risk of turnover is another threat that’s too great to ignore.
To address any growing pains, business leaders will need to shift focus on retaining and nurturing staff. This will include a wholesale review of benefits and compensation schemes, along with culture building projects and other improvements that can help employees better experience and enjoy their work. This means making the new priority your people – not just your business – and the role of international HR consulting will only start to feel more significant when a business engages it staff to ready it for the future.
HR is a platform for better employee engagement and productivity. With expert advice, there’s countless value to unlock from the most precious resource your business already has – its people.