No jab, no job?

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A recent article by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) looks at the thorny area of employee support and vaccine hesitancy. The article describes a reported rise in ‘no jab no job’ policies, which compel staff to get vaccinated.

The piece touches on the essentially new ethical question of whether vaccine hesitancy is a personal choice or a social obligation – and of what role employers play in it. It delves into legal questions, management techniques, and issues to do with building trust.

The risks for organisations, after all, are very large. Not only could unvaccinated employees import the virus and spread it among staff, but suspicion and resentment can fester within workforces if there is not a clear line. The reputation of the organisation may suffer if these problems take hold.

Image taken from original source.

There are a whole range of other problems besides this, when it comes to the intersection between vaccines, HR and the return to face-to-face work.

For example, this analysis by the Institute for Employee Relations think tank finds that present government guidelines are “too light touch”. This article, meanwhile, reports that nearly 50,000 employers have applied for workplace testing – a dilemma for every company. Each of these factors are likely to raise anxieties among workers or to create new resource pressures.

Even looking beyond this, there are challenges which few could have foreseen. How, for example, do organisations account for the challenges posed by threats and counterfeits of the virus? And what are the implications for companies with an international reach, if vaccine passports are introduced more widely by airlines (as British Airways announced they would be doing this week)?

We came across two handy pieces of guidance this month, when it came to answering some of the questions above.

The first is this extensive guide from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. It is a long piece, but offers lots of detailed suggestions, including questions such as the legality of mandatory viruses. It takes you through potential approaches to adopt when engaging with different employee groups.

The second piece of advice comes from Harvard Business Review. It provides 12 really specific messaging guidelines about how to overcome vaccine hesitancy among employees. These include tips such as ‘Emphasise stories over statistics’, which can seem obvious but often get forgotten.

The wider point, however, is to focus on the importance of thinking through these questions. It is easy to see this phase of the pandemic as the approach of the finish line. But the truth is that widespread return to work represents a major potential bottleneck when it comes to business risk.

Bethany Warren is a Business Resilience Consultant at Horizonscan.