Can Employers Insist That Double-Vaccinated Employees Return to the Office?

folder_openEmployee Relations, Home Working, Wellbeing

Monday 16th August heralded some important changes to Covid-19-related restrictions – particularly from an employer’s point of view.

From this date, adults who have been double-jabbed no longer need to self-isolate when identified as a close contact of a person testing positive for Covid-19. 

So, since three-quarters of the UK adult population have now received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, does this mean you can insist on a full return to the office?

Although employees no longer have the right to self-isolate if the law doesn’t require it, that doesn’t mean everybody feels relaxed and ready to return.  A survey conducted by the absence management company Edays noted that 60% of employees “wouldn’t feel comfortable skipping isolation” even if they were legally told to.

If an exempt employee decides to self-isolate regardless, they will have no right to be paid, nor to receive statutory sick pay.  However, you should always try to discover the reasons behind their decision before taking any further action.

For example, if the employee doesn’t feel safe at work, are there measures you could put in place that would help to reassure them, and ultimately the rest of your workforce?  If they are concerned about a vulnerable family member, could you agree a longer work-from-home period, or some unpaid leave? 

If there is no good reason behind the employee’s decision to self-isolate, you can legally instruct them to return in writing, making it clear that their decision is not acceptable.  

However, you should tread carefully. 

Although Covid restrictions are easing, the pandemic itself is not over, and many employees have reasonable concerns about their ongoing health and safety.  Tackling these concerns with patience and understanding is far more likely to lead to a successful outcome for all concerned.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this issue further with one of our expert advisors, please get in touch.

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