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Employers urged to prepare for vaccine complexities.

Independent global health & safety assurance specialist, Lloyd’s Register, is calling on business leaders to start planning ahead of the incoming vaccine rollout, as complexities could lead to legal and ethical policy challenges.

Although vaccine distribution is in early stages– and with prioritisation lying with those most vulnerable – companies are being urged to review policies before the vaccine is widely available. Among the key considerations during this critical period are potential privacy and discrimination implications, as well as personal health, religious and ethical objections.

The vaccine is not solely an issue of science for employers, which face the very real prospect of staff refusing to be vaccinated. According to a survey from the University of Hamburg, 40% of respondents across seven European countries are hesitant or unwilling to get the vaccine, while Ipsos found that nearly a third of Japanese respondents have said they would choose not to get inoculated for the coronavirus.

The dilemma for employers is even greater for those that operate in factories, offices, shops and transportation, where inoculation will be key if staff are to safely return to the workplace. James Pomeroy, Group Health, Safety, Environment & Security Director at Lloyd’s Register, explains: “Companies have an obligation to keep all employees and customers safe, and the dilemma awaiting many industries shows that work must start now to prepare vaccination policies.

Although vaccine distribution is in early stages– and with prioritisation lying with those most vulnerable – companies are being urged to review policies before the vaccine is widely available. Among the key considerations during this critical period are potential privacy and discrimination implications, as well as personal health, religious and ethical objections.

The vaccine is not solely an issue of science for employers, which face the very real prospect of staff refusing to be vaccinated. According to a survey from the University of Hamburg, 40% of respondents across seven European countries are hesitant or unwilling to get the vaccine, while Ipsos found that nearly a third of Japanese respondents have said they would choose not to get inoculated for the coronavirus.

The dilemma for employers is even greater for those that operate in factories, offices, shops and transportation, where inoculation will be key if staff are to safely return to the workplace. James Pomeroy, Group Health, Safety, Environment & Security Director at Lloyd’s Register, explains: “Companies have an obligation to keep all employees and customers safe, and the dilemma awaiting many industries shows that work must start now to prepare vaccination policies.

“An organisation’s response needs to consider all employees’ religious beliefs and personal medical rights. That said, in the case of an employee who cannot be vaccinated or refuses to do so, possible accommodations will need to be considered, such as transferring to a different role with fewer interactions, telework or continued use of personal protective equipment.”

In addition to workplace policies, employers are being warned to carefully consider the legal requirements if operating in more than one country. Understanding legal frameworks will be vital, particularly if countries plan to introduce a form of compulsion, such as so-called vaccine passports. This understanding will be crucial for any business operating in multiple countries, including joint ventures, as a group-wide approach may not work.

While it is unlikely, we will see many countries mandate the vaccine – simply due to the lack of legal powers to do so – some countries do have this power and have indicated consideration of a compulsory Covid-19 vaccine. James concludes: “At the moment, there are many uncertainties facing employers. However, plans must be put in place for every eventuality and all processes must be challenged rigorously.”

“Businesses can start their journey through ISO 45001, which helps mitigate risk and improve business performance through a safer working environment. At Lloyd’s Register, we are supporting businesses to create a robust health and safety culture, whereby employees are encouraged to take an active role in their own occupational health and safety. We also support the operations and delivery of policies, ensuring that all questions are asked and considered.”

ISO 45001 is the international standard for occupational health and safety and is replacing OHSAS 18001. In response to the challenges posed by Covid0-19, the International Accreditation Forum has extended the migration deadline for ISO 45001 certification to September 2021.

Find out more about ISO 45001 certification.

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