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Should employers have the right to ask staff if they are vaccinated?

Almost six in ten employers want the right to ask their staff if they have been vaccinated agains...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

15.41 20 Jun 2021


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Should employers have the righ...

Should employers have the right to ask staff if they are vaccinated?

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

15.41 20 Jun 2021


Share this article


Almost six in ten employers want the right to ask their staff if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A new survey from CIPD Ireland, the Professional Body of Human Resources, found almost half would attach no conditions to that.

However, just under a fifth would not permit unvaccinated workers to enter the workplace, and 10% would send those staff members on unpaid leave.

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Director of CIPD Ireland, Mary Connaughton, outlined some of the findings to Stephen Murphy on Newstalk Breakfast Weekends today.

"What we found is, 58% wanted to know if their employee was vaccinated, but a smaller proportion, nearly 40%, wanted to request proof of vaccination," she said.

"Interestingly, there was nearly a third who said they didn't feel they should have any rights in this area.

"If they know whether or not people have been vaccinated, half of employers wouldn't use that information in any way, there wouldn't be any conditions applied.

"But for 38%, they would expect employees to keep working from home, so they wouldn't want them coming into the workplace and if they did have to come in, they may be segregated.

"There was an interesting small number who felt they would have to put employees on unpaid leave if they didn't know they were vaccinated and working from home wasn't viable."

Should employers have the right to ask staff if they are vaccinated?

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Ms Connaughton added that there isn't much guidance on this matter for employers or their staff.

"The challenges of this are around the discriminatory impact of treating non-vaccinated people different from vaccinated people," she explained.

"For example, we know the vaccinations are being rolled out based on age so that's your first challenge.

"But also people may not be vaccinated based on their religion, their principles, based on a medical reason.

"So it's a very difficult area to do action in and what we thought was good to see was that most would not apply conditions if people weren't vaccinated or let them continue to work from home, which are both reasonable and appropriate responses."

Discrimination cases

She believes that legal cases could emerge in Ireland in the coming months involving employers who will not permit unvaccinated workers to return to offices.

"What's happened in the UK in the last week or so is they have brought in the right for certain sectors, like the nursing home sector, to require frontline health workers to be vaccinated," Ms Connaughton said.

"That's immediately going to cause problems for that sector because in the UK, they'll have a lot of people who are from ethnic minorities who may not be vaccinated, people who have migrated into the country, so they run a real risk of resourcing and providing the service they need, as well as claims of discrimination.

"Because there's legislation there, you would actually be challenging the government legislation.

"Without it here, I certainly think there would be grounds for people to take claims if they were mistreated or treated differently based on religion or medical reasons around this issue."

Main image: Employees of the government of the Balearic Islands working in Palma de Mallorca to track and monitor coronavirus cases. Photo: Clara Margais/dpa

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