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Covid 19 and recruitment

By Natasha Smith, Senior Associate


Here Natasha Smith addresses some common questions from employers navigating Covid-19 with the recruitment of new staff.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 obliges employers to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks; this duty gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated and accept offers of boosters to protect themselves and everyone else in the workplace.


There are a number of issues that employers may want to consider when approaching the issue of recruiting new staff in a post-pandemic world.


Can we stipulate in a job advert that anybody applying needs to be fully vaccinated, whilst being clear that if an applicant is exempt for any reason, then they will still be considered on proof of exemption?
Unless staff work in the care industry, then there is currently no legal requirement to have the Covid-19 vaccination in order to carry out their role. Therefore, to make it a requirement in a job advert is likely to open employers up to potential discrimination claims (which goes further than those who have a medical exemption) if certain potential, suitable, candidates may be excluded from being considered for a role.


If we can’t make vaccination a requirement in the job advert, can we ask them about it at interview?
It depends on the reason for asking and what the data will be used for. Asking candidates during the recruitment process if they have had the vaccine may be justified in certain sectors and job roles where there is a particular health and safety exposure (eg, a health/care setting).


However, generally, medical information is sensitive personal data that falls under data protection rules and it may be inappropriate to ask in interview so employers should avoid asking prospective employees health-related questions.


If an applicant says they are fully vaccinated, can we ask them to prove it?
If this information is volunteered by a candidate, whilst potential employers can ask them if they are happy to provide proof of their vaccination status, they have no obligation to do so and should not be penalised in any way for failing to do so.


If you would like to discuss any of the above issues or any other employment matter, please do not hesitate to contact Joseph Oates on email: jmo@cooperburnett.com or Natasha Smith on email: nes@cooperburnett.com or tel: 01892 515022.

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March 14, 2022

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