The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Omicron – Workplace Dos and Don'ts for Employers

22 December 2021 | Updated 21 December 2021

A senior HR consultant offers guidance on how employers can keep workplaces safe and encourage employees to get vaccinated.

Anil Champaneri, Senior HR Consultant and Technical Lead at Alcumus, is a qualified solicitor but works in a non-practising capacity advising clients on a range of employment law and HR matters including disciplinaries, grievances, redundancies and TUPE.


Dealing With Vaccine Concerns


As the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreads at pace across the country, and the risk of yet more restrictions heightening, more and more employers have started to rethink their plans for in-person Christmas parties, meetings, working from the office, and other workplace activities for the remainder of this year and next.

The UK government has announced that vaccines continue to remain our best line of defence and is pursuing ambitious plans to get all adults who had their first two vaccination doses a booster jab by year-end, while calling all adults who have not yet received their first or second dose of the vaccine to come forward to help protect themselves and others, the practicality of these ambitions are yet to be tested.

With growing levels of uncertainty, employee health, safety and wellbeing continue to be top priorities for all employers. As such, business leaders are likely to encourage their employees to get vaccinated or get booster jabs to ensure workplace safety for all. With that in mind, here are some key things to look out for what you can and can’t do if an employee refuses to get vaccinated.


Workplace Dos


  1. Persuade people that the vaccines are safe and that it’s in everyone’s interests to have one so that we can get ensure a certain level of safety for themselves and their colleagues, friends and family.
  2. Have a vaccination policy so staff are clear on business’ expectations.
  3. Pay staff for the time off for vaccination appointments so they do not suffer a financial detriment.
  4. If you operate a care home, your employees (and see also below) needed to be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) by 11 November 2021.
  5. Parliament has now approved plans to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory (unless exempt) for all patient-facing health and social care workers in England including nurses. Official guidance is pending in the New Year.  Failure to be fully vaccinated by the designation deadline (currently April 2022) could result in employment being terminated. As an employer, you would of course have to look at all the alternatives before making that decision and, naturally, seek advice/involve your HR team or HR consultant. If an employee is dismissed, make sure that they are offered an appeal and that they are paid for their notice as per their contract of employment.
  6. Outside of those areas/sectors where vaccination is now mandatory, ideally, an employer may want to be aware of the vaccination status of their employees. Employees' health information falls into the category of special category personal data. As with the processing of all special category data, employers must identify a lawful basis under UK GDPR. If they cannot do so, any processing is in breach of the UK GDPR. It is worth flagging that the ICO guidance states that the sector in which the employer operates, the nature of the work carried out by its workers, and the health and safety risks in the particular workplace, will be relevant for employers in deciding whether they have legitimate interests to record the vaccination status of their staff. The guidance gives the examples of staff who are legally required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, work somewhere where they are likely to come into contact with those infected with COVID-19 at work, or who could pose a risk to clinically vulnerable individuals. An employer in such cases could use this as justification for collecting employee vaccination status.


Workplace Don'ts


  1. Tell employees they must be vaccinated. The exception to this is for those working in care homes and for all patient-facing health and social care workers in England. With respect to care homes, this also includes those required to enter a care home for work such as hair stylists, contractors and trainers. Friends, family (who also may be unpaid carers) and essential care givers will not need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption.
  2. Discriminate against staff who refuse to be vaccinated. They may be some staff (if under 18 years of age) who have yet been offered the vaccine. Some staff might refuse vaccination on religious or philosophical belief grounds and as such will be protected under the Equality Act 2010. There is also a small group of people who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons including severe allergies so could be exempt from having a vaccination. If your policy adversely affects people from a protected group (race, age, sex, disability and religion or belief being the most likely) it will potentially be indirectly discriminatory. In those sectors/areas where vaccination is mandatory, it is a different story.
  3. Focus on making your workplace "COVID secure" as, until the vast majority of the population are vaccinated, these precautions still remain the best way of protecting your staff.


Alcumus strongly recommends that you take HR advice before taking any action against someone who has refused to be vaccinated.

Picture: a photograph of a viral spore

Article written by Anil Champaneri | Published 22 December 2021


Related Articles

Businesses React to PM’s Living With COVID Strategy

Boris Johnson has set out England’s plan for “living with COVID” – but how do business leaders feel about the next steps? The Prime Minister...

 Read Full Article
Citigroup Adopts ‘No Jab, No Job’ Policy

Citigroup is the first Wall Street bank to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace. According to a company memo seen by Reuters, employees in the USA will be placed...

 Read Full Article
1 in 5 British Frontline Workers Fear Job Losses as a Result of Reporting Safety Issues

Additionally, more than 3/4 (78 per cent) of British frontline workers don’t feel they’re always listened to by management on topics that matter to them the...

 Read Full Article
UK Workers Unsure on Returning to Office Without Vaccine

Around half of UK office workers feel confident about returning to work without a fully vaccinated workplace. Research shows that 80 per cent of UK office...

 Read Full Article
Events Post-Pandemic: Roadmap Update

The roadmap’s release has encouraged announcements across the board in the live events market. From Step 3 of the 4 Step process, managers, promoters and performers...

 Read Full Article
Under 50s to be Vaccinated Based on Age, Not Occupation

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has revealed that under fifties will be vaccinated based on their age, as prioritising according to occupation...

 Read Full Article
Trades Union Congress Urges Employers to Furlough Parents Affected by School Closures

The TUC is calling on employers to offer furlough to all parents affected by the closure of schools, as all secondary schools will remain closed this week. The union...

 Read Full Article
831 Company Directors Prosecuted for COVID Support Scheme Misconduct

The Insolvency Service has disqualified over 800 company directors for misusing loan schemes intended to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.   During...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Sunita Gordon | SaferSpace

Sunita Gordon is the Co-Founder and CEO of SaferSpace, an app that allows employees to report unacceptable behaviour and harassment in the workplace...

 Read Full Article
1 in 5 Neurodivergent Employees Experience Discrimination at Work

CIPD research shows a potential link between neurodiversity and harassment at work. In a survey of over 1,000 workers, 790 people considered themselves to be...

 Read Full Article