A man in a denim shirt wearing a face covering receives a vaccination from a doctor in a lab coat wearing a face covering.
Image: © VAKSMANV/Stock.adobe.com

Survey: Most Irish employers have no vaccination strategy in place

21 Jun 2021

Almost 90pc of Irish businesses have called for guidance on the collection of employee vaccination data as pandemic restrictions lift.

Irish employers want to know if they should collect employees’ vaccination information and, if so, how to process it.

That’s according to a new nationwide survey from the Association of Compliance Officers in Ireland (ACOI), which sought the views of more than 300 organisations.

It found that 94pc of Irish businesses have no employee vaccination strategy in place as the country’s vaccine roll-out continues and restrictions begin to lift.

Almost 90pc of companies surveyed also called on the Data Protection Commission (DPC) to issue guidance on if and how employee vaccination data should be collected by employers.

ACOI’s CEO, Michael Kavanagh, said there is a sense of urgency surrounding this issue, as 46pc believe guidance should be issued as soon as possible and a further 42pc believe it should be issued before the summer.

“All of which is understandable because, as it stands, these employers simply do not know how to proceed,” he said. “Just 12pc believe that the DPC have until later in the year to take action on this issue.”

A recent survey from CIPD Ireland and Industrial Relations News found that nearly 60pc of employers would like the right to ask an employee if they have received a Covid-19 vaccine.

But earlier this year, William Fry’s head of the employment and benefits, Catherine O’Flynn, told Siliconrepublic.com that while employers may be keen to confirm whether their employees have or have not received a vaccine, it’s important to remember their duties under data protection legislation.

“The Data Protection Commission issued guidance that clarified that GDPR provides a legal basis for processing health data where the data processing is necessary and proportionate,” she said.

“Employers should ensure that the legal bases for processing data is clearly explained in their vaccination policy. In addition to this, employers should monitor the necessity and proportionality of processing employee information in line with Government guidance.”

Preparing vaccination strategies

While most Irish employers do not have a vaccine strategy in place, the ACOI survey found that only 25pc of respondents are working on one, with the other 75pc saying that a vaccine strategy is “not currently on the agenda”.

Kavanagh said that while many employers may not feel this is an important issue right now while most employees are working remotely, he warned that complacency is not an option.

“GDPR on the topic of employee vaccinations has the potential to become a highly contentious area of compliance for firms, and the processing of health data, in particular, has important implications under GDRP legislation,” he said.

“Our experience would show us that a constructive and proactive approach is crucial in the successful roll-out of any compliance strategy. We are advising organisations that one immediate step they can take is to ensure their employee privacy policy is reviewed and updated once the DPC issues any guidance.”

While guidance around data collection has not yet been issued, the Irish Government issued an updated Work Safely Protocol last month, which requires employers to inform staff of “the benefits and drawbacks of both vaccination and non-vaccination”.

It says: “If a worker decides not to avail of the offer of a vaccination, the employer must review their risk assessment and decide whether the worker can carry out the work task without vaccination, and what other protective measures are needed.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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