Are employers obliged to give time off for the Coronavirus vaccine?
Although many employers support their staff having the Coronavirus vaccine, a question that does arise is whether employers are legally obliged to allow time off work for staff to get the jab.
There is no legal obligation on employers to allow time off for medical appointments, which would include an appointment to get vaccinated. Many employers do stipulate in their policy documentation that employees should avoid arranging medical appointments during work hours where possible. Further, despite urging the public to get vaccinated, the government has not issued any guidance on how to approach such a situation.
We must of course remember the amendments to The Health and Social Care Act 2008 are due to come into force on 11 November 2021. These amendments will require employees of regulated care homes to be fully vaccinated (unless they are exempt) as a requirement of employment. Considering this, ACAS has advised employers to think about allowing time off for staff to attend vaccination appointments to ensure that as many affected employees as possible are vaccinated before the new law comes into force.
It is an employer’s duty to take all the reasonable steps to decrease the risks to health and safety in the workplace. It is therefore arguable that allowing employees to get the vaccine during working hours will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus in the workplace (thereby assisting the employer to comply with this duty) and the number of employees who have to take time off to self-isolate.
In terms of allowing paid time off for vaccination, subject to any contractual provisions, this ultimately remains the decision of the employer. ACAS does suggest that employers may consider giving staff time off with pay for this purpose as an effective means of encouragement for staff to get the vaccine.
Whilst staff wanting to get vaccinated should be encouraged to arrange their appointments in their own time, it is inevitable that this will not always be possible. Employers should therefore deal with each request for time off on a case-by-case basis and act reasonably when determining if time off should be granted or not.