As part of their Autumn and Winter Plan for Covid-19, the government has released details of its backup strategy for controlling the virus over the coming months. With many commentators accusing ‘Plan A’ of being overly optimistic, it is worthwhile for employers to begin considering what ‘Plan B’ could involve.
While ‘Plan A’ outlines measures for the best-case scenario, ‘Plan B’ provides alternative methods of control should the NHS become overwhelmed. This includes reinstating compulsory face masks in some settings, encouraging employees to work from home, and introducing mandatory Covid-19 certification or ‘vaccine passports’.
Throughout this article, we will be exploring the potential impact of these passports on employers. The Health and Care sector has already experienced the complications that come with mandatory vaccination, and many other businesses could soon follow if ‘Plan B’ is activated.
Where could mandatory certification be required?
Recently, certain US states have adopted their own vaccine mandates which have been applicable to large sporting arenas. This has sparked controversy in the news, after basketball player Kyrie Irving refused to reveal his vaccine status, with another high-profile player also being denied a religious exemption. Musicians such as Eric Clapton have also fuelled the fire, after refusing to play certain concerts where the vaccine mandate was effective.
In response to this, the NBA has stated that any players who cannot meet vaccination requirements will not be paid. Fortunately, the UK government’s proposals are much less stringent, with mandatory Covid-19 certification only likely to apply in night clubs, dancehalls, and discotheques. They would also be required in any venues hosting indoor events with over 500 people, as well as outdoor events with over 4000 people, and any event with over 10,000 people.
If you run events of the nature specified above, or you have employees who perform work in these environments, you must be prepared for the potential introduction of mandatory Covid-19 certification.
A potential headache for Christmas party season
It should also be noted that office Christmas parties are fast approaching, meaning those who are attending large events with multiple other businesses could be affected.
If this situation does arise, employees may be required to prove vaccine status or provide a negative test result before attending. Considering these events are typically paid for in advance, this could lead to unwanted complications for employers.
What does mandatory certification involve?
If mandatory certification is introduced, the government is proposing that affected venue workers (aged over 18) should be:
- Fully vaccinated
- Exempt (for medical reasons or due to clinical trial participation for Covid-19 vaccination)
- Undertaking regular supervised testing
In the UK, there are currently no proposed exemptions for religious grounds, and the list of medical exemptions is much stricter than those previously applying to face masks.
How to prepare for ‘Plan B’
If ‘Plan B’ becomes active, employers may be required to start recording vaccine status amongst their workforce or provide regular testing of staff. With this comes potential complications from a GDPR angle, as health data such as this receives greater protection than other types of personal data.
For instance, if mandatory certification is only in place for three months, your justification for storing such information will expire once the mandate does.
Using HR administration software like Breathe is a highly efficient way to record and remove employee health data. Many features are already in place to help employers prepare for ‘Plan B’, including the ability to log vaccination status and test results. You can find more information on this here.
It should also be remembered that the measures discussed in this article are proposals. If they do come to fruition, it is highly likely that more guidance will be released for employers, which AHR Consultants will strive to keep you informed on.