You would think after all this time where we have had to shut ourselves away to avoid spreading covid the recent changes enabling a next step to normal life would be welcomed. Since Monday those who are fully vaccinated can keep going if they come into contact with someone with Covid symptoms though they are still strongly advised to take a PCR test and to limit their contact with clinically vulnerable people. It is only if they themselves test positive that the legal requirement to isolate comes into force.
But several trade unions are resisting a return to work saying that fully vaccinated employees who are pinged after encountering someone who’s tested positive for Covid should still self-isolate on full pay.
Deputy general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, Steve Hedley, is unhappy at the idea of it being easier for workers to go to work under the more relaxed pandemic control protocol. He has said that it is “dangerous” and “totally illogical”. He is now lobbying for a right for workers to self-isolate at home if they wish to with no loss of pay.
Mr Hadley argues that the evidence shows that the link between the virus and deaths has been weakened, but it hasn’t been broken. He thinks that many workers will be concerned at spreading or catching Covid if people pinged by the app are allowed to come back to their jobs straight away. No one should be forced to go back to work.
The RMT is not alone in its views.
The teaching unions displayed a distinctly unhelpful response to returning to work when ministers were attempting to get children back into schools earlier this year.
If children (and their parents) suffer serious mental health issues as a result of having to home school for long periods, some of the blame at least must be laid at the unions’ door.
The civil service has been told to go back to their offices, but despite the obvious and painful inefficiencies of working from home union leaders have been dragging their feet.
Certain universities won’t commit to a full return to face-to-face teaching in the autumn because it’s so much easier for dons to lecture online.
Currently one of the main queries from clients is: what do I do about those fully vaccinated employees who say they are scared to come to work because not everyone is fully vaccinated; and secondly, how about those employees who say they are scared to come to work because they are not vaccinated?
The answer is fairly straightforward. You tell them that unless they are sick or otherwise have permission to remain at home, they must come to work.
- Make sure you maintain safe hygiene practices and keep your risk assessment under review.
- Do everything you reasonably can to encourage staff to get vaccinated. By all means use incentives. Many employers want to take the “no jab, no job approach”. You can amend your terms of employment to include this, but can’t impose it on existing employees, unless they are required to do so by law, as, for example, are care workers.
- Update your safety policy if you want to include requirements as regards vaccinations and/ or testing, though proceed with caution as there may be perfectly valid reasons for refusal.
- Explore issues with staff to resolve the difficulties and see if you need to make adjustments.
It seems that some unions are trying to make us a nation of lead swingers. This is an unacceptable stance and does not appear to be representative of general views. People want to get their lives back and we need a robust economy. Judging by the number of holiday makers, football crowds and busy pubs and restaurants, it suggests there is no general aversion to busy places. Most fully vaccinated people are showing by their behaviour that they feel that it is safe to be getting back to normal. Workplaces should now be the same.
If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch!
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2021 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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