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UK workforce divided over coronavirus vaccinations

Over half (56%) of UK employees think workers should be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine before being allowed back to the workplace, according to a Glassdoor survey.

More than two in three (68%) employees reportedly believe social distancing and wearing masks should remain compulsory until everyone in the office has been vaccinated.

A further 14% said they would quit their job if they were forced to return to work before all staff have been vaccinated against the virus.

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Only 12% of those surveyed said they do not intend to get vaccinated, yet of this group, one in four revealed they would be more likely to take a vaccine if their employer incentivised them to do so.

Thirty nine per cent of respondents suggested that financial incentives such as a cash bonus would encourage them to take the jab.

Employers and HR teams will have to ensure workforces don’t fracture and feel un-safe ahead of the return to the workplace. 

Carina Cortez, chief people officer at Glassdoor, said because the UK government has made it clear that it is a business decision whether the COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for all staff, employers need to make their own plans.

She said: “With the majority of employees appearing to want standard precautions such as social distancing to remain until all employees have been vaccinated, employers should be working on their office re-entry plan.”

Cortez recommended employers take into account employee feedback to determine the best approach for their workforce.

“A decision on whether or not a policy on vaccinations will be compulsory is needed,” she said.

“This is an incredibly sensitive area but the bigger opportunity here is to define what office life will be like, both this year and in the long term.”

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, told HR magazine that while some employees are enthusiastic about having the vaccine, employers must remember that some may be unable to have it due to circumstances out of their control, such as pre-existing medical conditions.

He said: “Employers and HR need to manage employees' varying views and ensure that conflicting views don't turn into actual conflict.

“Employees should be reminded, possibly in a vaccination policy, to appreciate that others may think differently and to respect other colleagues' views on the vaccine.”

Price suggested that any unacceptable behaviour should be dealt with in normal ways, for example, a disciplinary procedure.

Glassdoor surveyed 2,000 UK employees between 12 and 15 February 2021.