Rules have to change so employers can ask about vaccine status - Grogan

New rules around COVID-19 close contacts will come into effect from Friday
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.05 12 Jan 2022

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Rules have to change so employ...

Rules have to change so employers can ask about vaccine status - Grogan

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.05 12 Jan 2022

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Rules have to be changed around employers not being able to ask workers if they're vaccinated.

That's according to employment law solicitor Richard Grogan, who was reacting to new rules around COVID-19 close contacts.

From Friday, asymptomatic boosted close contacts of a confirmed case will no longer have to restrict movements.


While the isolation period for those who do test positive is to be set at seven days for everyone - regardless of their booster status.

But Richard told The Pat Kenny Show while he welcomes the changes, they are a legal headache.

"The difficulty that employers have at the present time is that they can't ask anybody if they're boosted.

"So if somebody says 'You're a close contact' and the employee says 'Right, fine' and the employee just sits there.

"And the employer says 'What about going home?' and the employee says 'You can't ask me if I'm vaccinated'".

Richard says the bottom line comes down to personal responsibility.

"So the answer on this is down to personal responsibility - now that's not great for an employer and it's not great for other employees.

"Particularly if somebody says 'I know Richard isn't vaccinated', for example, and the employer says 'I can't even ask them about this'.

"So I mean we have to have the rules changed in relation to an employer being allowed ask somebody if they're vaccinated, if they're exercising the 'I don't need to isolate' provision."

'Nobody is policing it'

He says the Government needs to give practical information on the new guidelines around antigen testing and medical-grade masks.

"Nobody is policing it, because one of the issues is who provides the tests and who provides the masks?

"Is it the employee that has to have the mask and provide the test, or is it the employer?

"We haven't heard that from the Government either, and I think this is one of the ones that's going to be left up in the air.

"And there's going to be an awful lot of dispute because the employee will say 'I have a mask' and they'll say 'That's not the right mask - you have to get a proper mask'.

"Well who pays for it and who pays for the antigen tests?

"They're bringing out these new guidelines but they're not saying how they're going to actually operate practically on the ground.

"And that just creates upset in workplaces and creates disputes between employers and employees, and employees and other employees.

"And nobody, but nobody, wants that".

Richard says even if employers are told the status of others, they still cannot ask.

"Most employees know the vaccination status of their fellow employees.

"And if they go to their employer and they say 'This person is a close contact, they shouldn't be here because they're not vaccinated' - the employer has to turn around and say 'I can't actually ask that question'.

"That's the current law, unless NPHET comes out and says 'Yes you can ask that question' - that's a problem".

But he adds: "If NPHET come out and say 'Yes you can ask these questions'... then in those situations that trumps the GDPR rules because it's a national emergency, or it's a health emergency".

However he explains this does not apply to new employees entering a business.

"They're not existing employees, so they're only going to an interview and there's no protection in Irish law to say you can't ask that question".

Rules have to change so employers can ask about vaccine status - Grogan

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Main image: Office workers with masks are seen in Barcelona, Spain in March 2020. Picture by: Paul Carr / Alamy Stock Photo

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COVID-19 Close Contacts Close Contact Rules Employers GDPR NPHET Richard Grogan The Pat Kenny Show Vaccinated Vaccine Status

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