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Returning to the workplace, vaccination policies and the Delta variant

How are businesses continuing to react to pandemic pressure?

We wrote a post back in May this year providing guidance for employers about company Covid-19 vaccination policies - Covid Vaccinations - how do employers tread the path?

Now 3 months later and Acas has conducted research finding that 25% of UK businesses are not giving their employees paid time off to book Covid-19 vaccinations and have stated they have no plans to change this stance going forward.

In the same study, a similar percentage of those questioned are refusing to provide full company sick pay to employees who are off work sick due to side effects from the vaccine.

The advice from Acas continues to be that employers should support staff to get the vaccine once it is offered to them. The research suggests that almost 60% of employers have been giving staff paid time off to have their vaccines and some 4% that hadn’t, will be changing their policy.

The advice is to support your staff to get the vaccine

In our blog, we reported on the advice Acas was giving on their website at the time:

“Essentially, employers can support their staff by giving them paid time off to attend vaccination or should staff develop side effects which make them feel unwell, then to offer paid sick leave for a few days whilst they recover.”

Reported on the CIPD website, Acas Chief Executive Susan Clews said: 

“It’s in businesses best interests to have a vaccine policy that supports staff to take time off as fully vaccinated workers are less likely to need longer periods of time off work to recover from Covid-19.”

Acas advice continues to encourage businesses to support staff to get the vaccine which may include paid time off to attend their vaccination appointment and to pay employees at their usual rate of pay should they feel unwell and are able to come into work due to vaccine side effects.

In addition, Acas suggests that businesses shouldn’t take any time off related to vaccine side effects into absence calculations which may then ‘trigger’ absence discussions with employees.

Are small businesses more likely to make vaccination mandatory?

So whilst businesses are being encouraged to have open and supportive dialogue with their employees about vaccinations, other research is reporting that it’s the small businesses which are feeling greater impact of the ongoing pandemic and in particular, the virulence of the Delta variant. In response, these organisations are delaying a return to their workplace and considering making vaccination mandatory for their staff.

Reported on Startup Donut which champions small businesses, a study by JumpCloud has analysed how SMEs are responding to the threats posed by COVID. The study polled both UK and US based small firms. The study found that in the UK, 58% of SMEs were taking steps to make vaccination obligatory for staff and 56% of those said they would offer incentives by way of paid time off work to attend an appointment, cash and even a holiday with proof of vaccination. 

Rajat Bhargava, CEO of JumpCloud said:

"SMEs continue to exhibit great resourcefulness, flexibility and initiative in responding to the pandemic and the Delta variant," 

And he goes on to say: "As an SME ourselves, we know the current conditions are extremely fluid, and like the majority of respondents, we had to rethink and delay our office return and hybrid workplace options."

Small businesses and a return to workplace strategy

As far as the return to the workplace strategy is concerned, SMEs are demonstrating flexibility and creativity in order to cope with the ‘when and how’ they return to some degree of normality. Strategies don’t appear to be set in stone - rather that small businesses consider all their options before committing to a particular course of action. 

In response to the Delta variant, over half of those polled (53%) in the JumpCloud survey were reconsidering their plans with 15% saying they had already delayed their proposed start date. An even greater number of SMEs (38%) didn’t have a confirmed return to workplace start date. Over two-thirds of firms said they would be offering working from home as an option for staff indefinitely. It would seem that the Delta variant is undercutting the drive for employees to return to the workplace on a full time basis and all employers must be alert and responsive to that issue.

If you would like advice about any of the issues raised in this blog, then Contact us.


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