As the scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic develops, many employers are considering what their approach should be to the issues around vaccination for their workforce, with a view to accelerating a return to some kind of normality. This is an area where law, guidance and best practice is likely to develop rapidly and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, particularly for multinational employers. The risks, challenges and benefits will vary depending on the profile of the workforce and nature and location of the business.
Stakeholders in the Life Sciences sector have naturally found themselves at the front and centre of these issues – not only in terms of production and manufacturing aspects, but also in terms of understanding the challenges faced by governments and employers when seeking to implement large-scale vaccination programmes. Life Sciences stakeholders are of course employers themselves, and often employ large numbers of people across many countries.
Some of the questions being asked by employers in this context include:
- Can we require our employees to be vaccinated?
- Can we take disciplinary action or dismiss them if they choose not to?
- Can we incentivise our employees to be vaccinated?
- Can we ask our workforce whether they have had or intend to have the vaccine?
- How do we go about processing data about the vaccine status of our employees?
There is also the question of what happens once the workforce is vaccinated, and the implications for return to work. The employment and HR landscape has undergone rapid change as a result of COVID-19, with many employers taking the opportunity to consider rolling out news way of working if and when employees and other workers are able to return to the workplace.
DLA Piper’s Employment, Intellectual Property & Technology and Life Sciences teams have created a global guide which addresses some of these key questions. The Guide looks at some of the key considerations with regard to requiring or encouraging employees to be vaccinated and highlights some of the differences in risk around the world.
These are complex and evolving issues and legal advice should be sought before taking action. The situation should also be kept under review as vaccine programmes become more widely available, economies and borders begin to open up again and more people return to the workplace.