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How HR executives can plan for the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine

After an unprecedented year, the UK has started to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations. At this stage, decisions as to how, when, and who will be vaccinated are in government hands and will likely remain so for some time.

However, with some airlines and countries already suggesting that vaccinations may be a pre-requisite to respectively travel and enter in the near future, it is critical to start planning now for what that might mean for businesses.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and be prepared for everything to be on the table.

Throughout the pandemic, leading with purpose and values has been more important than ever. As with the initial crisis response, when faced with decisions around vaccinations, businesses will need to simultaneously protect their employees all the while abiding by government regulations and playing their part in the protection of national healthcare infrastructure.

Their employees will expect no less in this value-realigned environment.


Planning for the growing implementation of the vaccine starts with trust.

Businesses who have spent months building trust with their people over the pandemic could destroy it in moments if they don’t treat the recovery period carefully.

The response to the global health challenge is primarily led by government policy, and employers must be prepared to step-up and guide their workforce through the myriad of new and evolving regulations.

People want to understand what their options are and will look to their leadership for answers.


Protection should always be the priority.

This applies to both employees and their ways of working – both remote and/or on-premise – in addition to ensuring operational continuity.

HR executives need to ensure protectionary measures rank high in their physical return to work and travel plans, considering challenges such as:

  • How will a vaccination, or a lack thereof, impact return to physical work planning?
  • What are people’s long-term preferences?
  • For people who choose not to be vaccinated, what does this mean for future working models?

As leaders communicate with their people, they must also stay close to the pulse of employee sentiment, understanding what their people are saying and how they’re feeling as more is known around vaccination performance.


Strategic planning by HR executives must extend cross-border and consider multi-state regulatory frameworks.

This process isn’t restricted to any one country and is a truly global issue.

Rules across different jurisdictions can change quickly and it will be key to ensure business is protecting employees located in other countries, as well as those who are expected to travel as part of their role.

This challenge extends along the supply chain and its key to understanding the policies introduced in supply chains.


These risks are not isolated to HR and impact all business functions.

Creating a working group of key stakeholders across the business will enable integration, which will ultimately ensure more effective, sustainable plans are put in place to protect the entire enterprise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on global businesses and leaders should be aware that the release of a vaccination will not enable a simple return to ‘normal’.

It is paramount that HR executives remain up-to-date with the quickly evolving situation and act holistically across the entire business, to develop an appropriate response as we move into a new phase of the pandemic.

The time to start planning an appropriate strategy is now.


Seema Farazi is EY EMEIA PAS COVID-19 response leader


The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.