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Return to the office: UK workers weigh up the possibility of COVID passports

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Over a third of UK workers expressed concerns about people who were not safe to have the vaccine pushing to get one to protect their income, according to a survey. Photo: Getty
Over a third of UK workers expressed concerns about people who were not safe to have the vaccine pushing to get one to protect their income, according to a survey. Photo: Getty

Returning to the office in a vaccinated world has raised concerns in UK workers who worry that workplaces could make proof of a COVID vaccine a mandatory requirement.  

According to a new study by HR software provider and employment law advice service, BrightHR, half of British workers expect bosses to demand a vaccine passport before they can return to work.

Of the 5,000 respondents, more than a third said they expect COVID passports will be mandatory, whereas nearly two-thirds say it is far too controlling for an employer to introduce such measures. 

A fifth said they will fear for their health if their employers refused to make the vaccine mandatory for staff, the study showed. 

It found 17% have had a conversation about their companies’ policy on coronavirus vaccines. 

When it comes to industry specifics, 44% of hospitality sector workers agree mandatory vaccines are a good idea, compared with 24% of office workers, 21% of key workers and a quarter of decision makers.

But, 45% of staff said they worry that creating a "jabs for jobs" policy would put unnecessary pressure on people who didn’t wish to be vaccinated. 

Over a third expressed concerns about people who were not safe to have the vaccine pushing to get one to protect their income.

READ MORE: Can companies only hire new workers who have been vaccinated?

Of the 1,000 company decision makers polled, almost half said they have talked about their views and company policy on making vaccines mandatory and the majority of employees agreed with their views. 

A third said they have yet to discuss this with their staff.

Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, said: "Although half of people expect their employer to demand a vaccine passport, it remains to be seen how reasonable those demands are and, therefore, whether the employer is acting lawfully in doing so."

Price warned employers to "tread carefully" when requiring workers to have a vaccine and ensure that their "circumstances are appropriate." 

"It may well become that the government will require employees in some sectors to have the vaccine, and the passport will be a simple way of evidencing that," he added. 

London-based firm Pimlico Plumbers has said it will be rewriting employees’ contracts to make the vaccination compulsory. If workers don’t want the vaccine, it will be decided on a case-by-case basis whether they are kept on or let go. 

Other firms, such as care-home companies, are believed to be considering making the jab obligatory too. 

WATCH: What Exactly Is a COVID Vaccine Passport?

The UK government plans to vaccinate as many people as possible and for all UK adults to be vaccinated before 31 July.

Officials are trying to find a way for venues to open without social distancing.

READ MORE: UK to trial COVID passports in April

COVID passports are being trialed in some sectors and other for other industries like travel its is a highly likely mechanism that could be rolled out to safely restart travel.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has also said there will "definitely" be a role for vaccine passports for international travel.

The government is also trialing a live gig without social distancing ahead of the reopening of live events.

It is also conducting a trial of the passports at some sporting events including the FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championships

The trials, which began in April and stretching into May, will test the viability of a system that could allow the UK's economy to open up again before the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations to all age groups.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?