Will businesses introduce employee vaccine tracking
From lockdowns to vaccines, the world's thoughts have centred on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for nearly two years. Yet, as more people get vaccinated, thoughts turn to economic recovery and learning to live with the virus.
Overcoming vaccine hesitancy
Yet, the return to something approaching normality has coincided with the emergence of the Omicron variant. This has refocussed attention on a key challenge - convincing vaccine-hesitant people to get jabbed - with world governments taking different (‘carrot and stick’) approaches to persuade people to get vaccinated.
Limited restrictions in the UK
Up to six million people may not have had a Covid jab in the UK.
This led the government to introduce a statutory requirement for those working or volunteering in a care home to be vaccinated against coronavirus and will make vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector following a consultation. Update: The Government had decided against mandatory vaccination for NHS staff.
Since 15th December, it has been mandatory for people to show proof of two vaccine doses via the NHS COVID Pass when entering specific settings (e.g., nightclubs, and certain indoor and outdoor venues) in England. Update: Covid passports are no longer mandatory. A similar ‘Vaccine Passport’ scheme has been launched in Scotland.
The focus on vaccination has accelerated in the UK after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine against symptomatic Omicron infection is close to zero.
Greater restrictions on the unvaccinated in the European Union
Some European countries have gone further. Germany has banned unvaccinated people from many aspects of public life. Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested coronavirus vaccines will become mandatory in 2022.
In November, neighbouring Austria introduced a national lockdown for unvaccinated.
In sport, Australia denied Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic an entry visa ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne and later deported him. Djokovic, the world No1 player, has not revealed his vaccination status and Australia expects spectators, players, and staff to be fully vaccinated.
Legislating at the state and federal level in the USA
Shortly after the FDA approved the first vaccine, individual US states started to order vaccination and testing for school employees. In November, the federal government announced vaccination requirements for workers and contractors. As part of the same package, President Biden asked the private sector employers to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.
Path Out of the Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan states that private employers with 100 or more employees must ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to undertake weekly COVID-19 tests before coming to work.
This directive will impact over 80 million workers and businesses that do not comply may face fines of up to $14,000 per violation from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when the mandate comes into effect in January 2022.
According to the New York Times, the new OSHA rules would require employers to keep records of which workers are vaccinated and which have recently been tested, [and] the agency could ask inspectors following up on unrelated concerns to check records for compliance with the vaccination rule.
But how do employers implement and impose these mandates to guarantee compliance? The answer is categorically not paper forms and vaccine spreadsheets!
Introducing the employee vaccine tracking app
Facing the prospect of heavy fines, many US employers are now developing procedures to comply with the directive and procuring solutions to automate the entire process for them.
One digital tool is the employee vaccine tracking app from BP Logix.
Built with the low-code business process automation (BPA) platform Process Director (which ePC resells in Europe), the vaccination tracker for employers supports US organisations to:
- prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases in the workplace
- comply with mandates to avoid fines and penalties
- reduce employee anxiety about workplace safety
Tracking employee vaccinations
The mobile app is a vaccination tracker for employers. It enables US employees to share proof of their vaccination status with their employers. For unvaccinated employees, the app handles exceptions by triggering automated workflows for weekly lateral flow testing, medical/religious exemption requests, and other escalation tasks.
It can be rolled out in a matter of weeks and is fully customisable to suit the specific needs of any number of workplaces, including:
- colleges and universities
- manufacturing plants
- government facilities
- retail establishments
- private offices and other workplaces
So, it would seem the USA is heading towards mandatory employee vaccine tracking but what about the UK?
Is it legal to ask for proof of vaccination in the UK?
Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances.
Last year, it was announced health and social care workers will need to provide evidence they are fully vaccinated. Implemented for care home workers in November, the measure was due to come into force for NHS staff on April 1st, 2022 but was scrapped in January over fears of a staff exodus.
Where there is no legal requirement yet, it is at the discretion of the company whether they want to check and track the information.
For private organisations recording employees’ covid vaccination status, the UK GDPR will apply. This means you must have a valid lawful basis to check people’s COVID status. Your reason for checking or recording must be clear, necessary, and transparent.
Under UK GDPR, a person’s COVID status is special category data, as it is their private health information. This means it requires more protection because it is sensitive.
To lawfully process special category data, you must identify both a lawful basis under Article 6 of the UK GDPR and a separate condition for processing under Article 9.
For public authorities carrying out their function, public task may be applicable lawful basis.
For other public or private organisations, legitimate interests is most likely to be appropriate, but you need to conduct a Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) to balance your interests against the employees’ rights as an individual.
You must also identify an article 9 condition for processing. The two you could consider are the employment condition or public health condition.
Recording employee vaccination status with UK GDPR
The sector you work in, the kind of work your staff do and the health and safety risks in your workplace should help you decide if you have legitimate reasons to record whether your staff have had the COVID-19 vaccine. For example, if your employees:
- are legally required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to perform their role;
- work somewhere where they are more likely to encounter those infected with COVID-19; or
- could pose a risk to clinically vulnerable individuals,
this may form part of your justification for collecting employee vaccination status.
For example, care home workers have a legal obligation to be fully vaccinated. Therefore, a clear legitimate interest (article 6) exists for care home managers to record vaccine status. Care homes would also use the public health condition under article 9.
Private businesses may choose to use the risk to clinically vulnerable colleagues as a legitimate interest under article 6 to record the vaccination status of their staff. A business is likely to cite the employment condition under article 9.
The bottom line
While it may be appropriate for your business to keep a record of employee vaccinations, if this is for monitoring purposes only and you are not legally compelled to do so, it may be more difficult to justify holding this information. The data collection must not result in any unjustified treatment of employees.
Early in the pandemic, several contact tracing apps (e.g., NHS Test & Trace) alerted you if you had been exposed to the virus. More recently, the NHS COVID Pass has enabled people to prove their vaccination status, travel abroad, and attend concerts and sporting events.
However, concerns have been raised by privacy campaigners about personal data and monitoring while the government faced a backlash from civil liberties groups worried about the prospect of a society split into haves and have-nots if people were required to show their NHS COVID Pass to prove their vaccination status upon entry to a venue.
Organisations might seek to independently monitor employee vaccination status to keep them and their colleagues safe in the workplace in accordance with UK GDPR. If this does happen, it is likely to be spearheaded by large, highly regulated organisations that need to track hundreds or even thousands of employee vaccination records.
Roll out the employee vaccination tracking app in a matter of weeks
Are you seeking to implement employee vaccine tracking for NHS and care home staff? Or are you considering tracking employee vaccinations under UK GDPR? If so, contact us for a demo of the employee vaccine tracker.