Whilst 70% of the adult population (at the time of writing) is double vaccinated, that leaves 30% unvaccinated. We do expect the following question to come up more and more over the coming months.
What do we do if someone refuses to work with someone who is unvaccinated?
First thing to do would be to speak to the employee and try to understand where they are coming from and why they feel they cannot work with the person in question.
Do not be dismissive of their fears or unease as they may have a genuinely held if not erroneous belief about the matter.
Fear can kick fact into a corner no matter how smart or evolved we think we are.
They may have a real concern about their health and safety or about those who live in their household or for whom they care. So, discuss it with them and try to see it from their point of view.
Once you have some understanding about their reasons, then what can you do to reassure them, through the measures you take in the workplace to protect everyone.
For every person embracing “Freedom Day” there will be another who is anxious about the possible consequences of this decision and Government has recognised this. See the How to cope with anxiety about lockdown lifting – Every Mind Matters – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Is it sensible to keep in review your COVID-19 Secure Risk Assessment as part of good health and safety etiquette.
Perhaps the employee in question would be happier if social distancing was maintained, face coverings were continued to be worn and twice weekly lateral flow tests continued.
So what happens if this doesn’t resolve the issue?
You have done all you can to remove the myths, fears and concerns of the employee as well as having gone through your risk assessments and steps that you employ to minimise the risks of COVID-19. But the employee still will not work with another who is unvaccinated.
If, as an employer you have put robust safe working measures in place that meet the Government’s guidelines applicable to you, then you can expect the employee to attend work.
There is no obligation on an employer to agree to an employee’s request to be furloughed. Nor is an employer expected to allow an employee to work from home if the role cannot be done from there realistically.
If an employee still refuses to work with another employee because they are not vaccinated, then the options include disciplinary action, moving the employee to another suitable role (if possible). However this can cause issues as can putting the employee on authorised unpaid leave.
Ultimately, there may be no easy answers to such a problem but seek to understand the employee’s point of view. Disciplinary action should always be the last resort.
Following a process as set out above, will provide a great deal of help to an employer who has to defend any claim that an employee may bring.
If you need any assistance with a HR matter, please call us on 01527 909436.