Office workers hiding faces behind paper sheets with question marks while sitting on a row of chairs indoors in an office.
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Asking for employees’ vaccination status is a worry for bosses

19 Aug 2021

More than half of employers surveyed by HRLocker said they had delayed office reopening plans until they receive further clarity on vaccinations.

The topic of employees’ vaccination status is a major hurdle for Irish offices reopening, according to a survey from Clare-based HR software company HRLocker.

It surveyed 600 businesspeople across Ireland between early July and early August to find out about their reopening plans.

Nearly three-quarters (71pc) of respondents, which included CEOs, HR directors and managing directors, said the legal restrictions around asking an employee for their vaccination status was a concern as they look to reopen offices.

The majority (85pc) are calling on the Government to provide clarity as to whether they will be able to or they will be required to ask for proof of vaccination before they let teams back into offices.

Similarly, in a June survey from the Association of Compliance Officers in Ireland, 90pc of companies called on the Data Protection Commission to issue guidance on if and how employee vaccination data should be collected by employers.

“The focus for most businesses now is on reopening safely,” said Adam Coleman, CEO of HRLocker.

“Whether they adopt a hybrid working model, or desire a full return to the office, what businesses need now is assurance: assurance that their employees can return to the office safely and assurance that they won’t be penalised for requesting employees’ vaccination status.”

Over half (53pc) of business leaders surveyed had delayed office reopening plans until they receive further clarity on ascertaining vaccine status, with 86pc citing increased costs such as legal advice and safety measures as a barrier to their plans.

Most respondents (84pc) said they believed employees did wish to return to offices eventually.

When asked whether they would dismiss an employee who was not vaccinated or refused to get vaccinated without a reasonable excuse, 15pc said they would. This is a significant drop from 40pc in a separate survey by HRLocker in January.

As for mandating vaccines, 8pc said they planned to do this – which was down from 23pc in January. The majority of respondents (61pc) said they want the Government to make vaccines a necessary requirement for employees who are going back to offices.

In response to demand from clients, HRLocker has added a GDPR-compliant employee vaccination status tracker to its software platform.

“We’re putting measures in place now to ensure our clients are in the best possible position if, and when, Government guidance on vaccine status-checks is updated to support businesses,” Coleman added. “However, it is imperative that employers seek legal advice to ensure their compliance with all regulatory and industry requirements and that the use of data is fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose.”

Earlier this year, William Fry’s head of the employment and benefits, Catherine O’Flynn, also told that while employers may be keen to confirm whether their employees have received a vaccine, it’s important to remember their duties under data protection legislation.

Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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