Vaccinations at work: What HR teams need to consider, from personal rights to morale and mental health

By Alex Hattingh, CPO at Employment Hero

With the UK Government’s plans to lay out the Covid-19 roadmap for the coming months on 22nd February, as well as the nationwide vaccination roll-out well and truly underway, it appears there’s an end in sight. Business owners and HR teams are now thinking about how they can best transition into a ‘new normal’, post-Covid working environment.

‘No job, no jab’ policies are being hotly debated, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the future of work is not a simple case of opening the office doors to return to ‘business as usual’.

Many companies will be questioning the need to continue with an office at all, or whether a move into ‘remote-first’ working is right for them. We speak to Alex Hattingh, CPO at Employment Hero to find out what HR teams need to consider in the coming weeks, to ensure employees feel safe and supported at work, and businesses thrive.

Personal Rights

Most will be in agreement that the vaccine can help protect the health of employees personally and the wider teams within shared working spaces.

Of course, businesses and employees want to go back to work and into a safe environment but I don’t think mandating vaccines are going to be popular.

Legally, there are no statutory provisions that could force employees to become vaccinated. Any medical treatments such as a vaccination, requires an individual’s informed and voluntary consent.  

There are also individuals that may claim anti-vaccination positions due to personal beliefs or health claims and be further protected by Human Rights, Equality Act 2010 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

However, employers still have a duty of care to staff. The wellbeing of British workers can’t be overlooked by businesses in this difficult environment.

Remote Working

The world has changed and forward-thinking business owners need to move away from managing the situation and instead, embrace a new normal.Online small businesses are on the rise in part, thanks to their ability to adapt quickly and this includes transitioning their workforce online. 

To remain competitive, the most successful businesses are attracting top talent through employment care solutions. These are online, automated, in-built and personalised solutions that help with HR management, training, mental health support, incentives and more.

At Employment Hero, we predict that employee benefits will continually increase in importance with one of those essential benefits being remote working. Not only does it help maintain a healthy workforce, it opens up the talent pool. It’s a vital benefit for many growing businesses.

The smartest businesses won’t be focused on surviving the short-term but thriving in the long-term, retaining their employees by ensuring a happy, productive, motivated workforce.

Vulnerable Persons

Whether people haven’t had the vaccine or are simply unable to physically or emotionally get back into the office, this shouldn’t be a reason to stop business. 

Remote working is here to stay so businesses and employees shouldn’t feel the need to rush back into the office. 

By working remotely you avoid the urgency of getting the vaccines or being at the mercy of a changing environment and legislation. 

By keeping your business open to all types of employees working remotely you also ensure you have a wider pool of talent to work with. 

Taking your business online and installing systems to allow remote working to operate efficiently will ensure there is no exclusion.

The way that employers structure their workforces, communicate with their employees, and construct their company cultures can be a massive driver in changing society-wide inequalities. Fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces also opens your business up to invaluable diverse thinking. The numerous mutual benefits for employees and businesses are well known among business leaders.

Health & Safety

With the continually changing workplace landscape it’s a good idea for businesses to update, carry out and monitor risk assessments (as obliged under Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005). 

The purpose of these assessments is to identify health and safety risks within the workplace and then take the necessary steps to remove or minimise such risks as identified. With or without a vaccine, the health of staff always needs to be monitored/updated. 

Regarding the increased risk of Covid and the option of taking a vaccine, a reasonable step for an employer to take in minimising the risks, would be to encourage staff through incentives and education, to make the most of the vaccines, rather than imposing ultimatums.

Increasingly, employers’ responsibility of the care for their employees extends from the traditional workplace to homes, from company drinks to lunchtime livestream PT sessions, and the expectations of ‘Total Employment Care’ becomes a reality.

Communication & Transparency

Giving regular updates and being open about business decisions can help your team understand what to expect and builds trust.

If there needs to be a change in policy due to new risk assessments, be realistic about what you are expecting of the team members. Changes, if not managed well, can cause massive anxiety with employees, so be sure to discuss any new expectations with the staff member directly. Have regular check-ins to make sure they understand the benefits and consequences and look for ways to streamline any transitions if possible.

Ongoing health and wellbeing management and support needs to be born from transparency and collaboration between staff and employers. “Successful, modern businesses are no longer about distant, hierarchical bosses but a team of people working towards a shared goal.

Morale & Mental Health

Covid has been a catalyst for many companies to change and adapt but this push shouldn’t be where businesses stop. 

Offering wellness programs and initiatives speaks volumes to staff about the level of care and value invested in their health. 

This can extend beyond awards and accolades. In fact, you can show appreciation using incentives that benefit your overall workplace culture and the health and wellbeing of each individual.

For instance, you could organise virtual fitness classes, or send a hamper of healthy snacks. Perhaps you could organise a monthly step challenge with prizes for those with the highest amount of steps. If you wanted to take it that further, you could offer free health assessments and screenings.

Designing and managing the right employee wellness program for your business starts with understanding the needs of your people. Be sure to reach out to your teams to get a feel for what they believe to be the most beneficial to their health.

We’re seeing a huge rise in demand for mental health support at work. Employment Hero’s recent research of 1,500 SME staff nationwide showed that mental health was the biggest ‘call for help’ by employees with 49% asking for mental health support from their employer since COVID.

Over the next decade, Millenials and Gen Z are set to make up nearly 60% of the workforce. A Harvard Business Review report recently uncovered that half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers had left roles in the past for mental health reasons (both voluntarily and involuntarily) compared with 34% of respondents overall — a finding that speaks to a generational shift in awareness. Not only is supporting a mentally healthy workplace the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. 

Author: Editorial Team

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