In early January, the NHS confirmed that staff at dental practices will be prioritised as part of the Covid-19 vaccination roll out.
Some people will be apprehensive about the vaccine for health reasons and for some, it will be against their beliefs.
Employment and HR Lawyer Sarah Buxton has been giving advice to practices on how to approach the subject and how not to fall foul of any regulations.
Staff vaccinations are a hot topic at the moment and there has been a lot of false information out there about what you can do in respect of your team.
It is really important as a manager or an employer to engage with your team about the vaccination process.
Be careful not to force vaccinations on people – they are not mandatory
You have to be very careful if people don’t want the vaccination and you can’t treat them any differently because of it.
You can incentivise staff to have a vaccination, but you cannot force or make it mandatory for staff to have the vaccination. It is down to the individual.
The GDC has said certain vaccinations are mandatory but they have advised against making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.
Examples where you could fall foul
If someone has a disability and they cannot take the vaccination, and you treat them differently or they lose their job, that would quite clearly be disability discrimination.
If a woman is worried about fertility issues regarding the vaccine and you make it mandatory for people to have it then that would leave you open to a sex discrimination claim.
If someone loses their job because your practice has a policy that says people must have the vaccine, then there would be an unfair dismissal claim.
You may have an employee who does not believe in the vaccine. If you went and told other members of staff this and said it was not their belief, then that could be covered by the equality, diversity and religion law.
Beliefs are protected, so you need to make sure you engage with staff and that you do not overstep the line.
Make sure you engage
Engage with your team. You should do this on a one-to-one basis rather than in a team meeting.
This is because the conversation is about personal and human rights issues.
What to do with vaccination information?
When you have got the information on whether people are going to have the vaccine or not, you must decide what you are going to do with it.
Health information should be kept and stored in a safe place, and you need to make sure you are complying with GDPR procedures.
Sarah specialises in acting exclusively for dentists, dental managers and dental practice owners in all aspects of HR and Employment Law and is a Director at FTA Law. Sarah often advises dental practices on managing and motivating their staff, dealing with sickness absence, assisting with making changes to employment contracts and, if needed, how to bring the employment relationship to an end. Sarah also has in-depth knowledge of the NHS Regulations and of the Care Quality Commission and how these effect the employment relationship in a dental practice.