Employers cannot ask staff to reveal their vaccination status, confirms Government 1 month ago

Employers cannot ask staff to reveal their vaccination status, confirms Government

It comes ahead of the phased return of staff to workplaces from next week.

The Government has confirmed that employers cannot ask staff to reveal their vaccination status as thousands will return to workplaces over the coming weeks.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Friday (17 September) published the updated Work Safely Protocol, which government says "reflects the most up to date public health advice and reinforces the public health measures that have kept workplaces safe throughout the pandemic".

These include the need to maintain the requirement for physical distancing, the wearing of masks and ventilation, measures which it states remain critical to preventing the spread of Covid-19.

A previous version of the protocol was published in May 2021 and said that employers could redeploy workers to other tasks if they were not vaccinated against the virus.

However, the Data Protection Commissioner has since warned that companies could not question employees about their vaccination status, writing: "The processing of vaccine data is likely to represent unnecessary and excessive data collection for which no clear legal basis exists."

Earlier in the week, meanwhile, HR Specialist Caroline Reidy from the HR Suite said that employers are "legally not allowed to ask" if employees have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

In a statement accompanying the updated Work Safely Protocol published on Friday, the Government says as vaccination is not mandatory in Ireland, and there are no plans to make it so, employers cannot currently require staff to reveal their vaccination status.

"The government is confident that the guidance set out here, in addition to the exceptionally high vaccination rate of our adult population, will keep workers safe as they return to the office," it adds.

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The protocol itself states: "The decision to get a vaccination against Covid-19 is voluntary and workers will therefore make their own individual decisions in this regard.

"An employer should read the advice on the Data Protection Commissioner website... as the processing or requesting of information on an individual’s vaccination status may not be appropriate.

"However, employers... may wish to provide advice and information on the vaccination programme so that workers have the necessary information to make an informed decision."

The government previously announced that attendance at work for specific business requirements may commence on a phased and staggered basis from 20 September.

On this, Varadkar said: "Next week marks another milestone in our recovery from the pandemic, with the phased return to the office beginning and indoor activities being permitted again.

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"This updated Work Safely Protocol reiterates guidance, based on the most up to date public health advice, to keep workers safe."