With cases of the new Omicron variant on the rise, the Government is strongly encouraging those who can get a booster jab (or their first or second vaccination) to do so. However, the vaccination booking website appears to be struggling to cope with demand and without a booking, those seeking a booster jab before seeing loved ones at Christmas may be forced to join one of the many long queues at walk-in centres which have been snaking around towns and cities since yesterday morning.
It is almost inevitable that appointments will be booked during working hours and employees may find themselves stuck in queues during the working day. For employers, many of whom only recently took their first tentative steps towards returning to physical workplaces, there may be a natural reluctance to give staff time off, much less paid time off, for vaccination. However, there are wider public health considerations at play and with the Government holding out vaccination as the solution to stopping the spread of Omicron, employers should think carefully about how they can accommodate vaccination and booster appointments.
Existing policies may already entitle staff to paid time off (after all a vaccination is a medical appointment), if not, consider whether there is good reason (public health, employee relations, PR) to offer additional flexibility for the sole purpose of vaccination. For lower paid or hourly workers, paid time off will be particularly important as losing out on wages may act as a deterrent to vaccination and without case numbers reducing, we may find ourselves facing yet another lock down.