ACAS has updated its guidance on the following:
Vaccine: getting the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for work (available here). The Guidance now includes advice on:
- how to offer support to staff that are getting the vaccine;
- what employers should do if they feel it is important for staff to receive the vaccine; and
- how to resolve any workplace issues about getting the vaccine.
Testing: ACAS has updated its guidance on Workplace Testing (available here). The main changes to the advice are as follows:
- increased emphasis that there is no law that says staff must be tested for Coronavirus, and in most situations it is not necessary;
- if an employer wants to test staff, they should first talk either with staff or a recognised trade union or other employee representatives; and
- express recommendation that if the employer cannot reach agreement with staff, it is ‘a good idea’ to get legal advice before bringing in a testing policy.
Comment: The updates to both sets of guidance indicate that ACAS is guiding employers even more clearly away from making it a requirement that staff should be either tested or vaccinated. ACAS states that:
- in most situations testing is not necessary; and
- it is best to support staff to get the vaccine without forcing them to.
We have been asked to advise on this issue by several clients. Together with the ACAS guidance, the main areas we focus on are:
- costs – depending on the size of your workforce and how regular you wish to test, the cost of Lateral Flow Testing could soon add up;
- consent – a tricky area. Your contract is unlikely to allow for mandatory testing and therefore how are you going to achieve consent?
- Lateral Flow Testing is not the complete answer, and it is much more important to keep your workplaces safe in line with current Government guidance. There is an argument that testing could give employees ‘false confidence’ and result in them relaxing all the safety measures you have put in place since last March
- What about positive results? How will employees be treated? If they are offered no pay or SSP, they may wish they hadn’t consented to the test
- Data handling and confidentiality – this would amount to sensitive personal data and would need to be carefully handled.