We have been asked recently can I check my employees COVID or vaccination status? First, you must be clear about what you are trying to achieve. By asking for an employee’s COVID status and how asking people for their COVID status helps to achieve this in your organisation. A person’s COVID status is special category data, as it is their private health information. Therefore, your use of this data must be fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose.
Residents of England can now show their COVID status through use of the NHS COVID Pass. COVID status shows a person’s risk of transmitting COVID-19 and is based on vaccine and test data. People in England with a low risk of transmission can get a COVID Pass through the NHS App, 119 service or online. Residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can use other means of indicating their COVID status, should they need to.
Data protection is only one of many factors to consider when thinking about implementing COVID status checks. You should take into account:
- employment law and your contracts with employees (if you are considering checking employees’ COVID status);
- health and safety requirements; and
- equalities and human rights, including privacy rights.
Are there other considerations to make when asking for Vaccine status for staff?
As an employer you will need to take into account that accepting the offer of a vaccine is a personal decision. This could be influenced by a number of factors.
If you consider the sector you work in, the kind of work your staff do and the health and safety risks in your workplace. This should help you to decide if you have legitimate reasons to record whether your staff have had the COVID vaccine. For example, if your employees work somewhere where they are more likely to encounter those infected with COVID-19; or could pose a risk to clinically vulnerable individuals. This may form part of your justification for collecting employee vaccination status. However, if you only keep on record who is vaccinated for monitoring purposes, it is more difficult to justify holding this information.
The collection of this information must not result in any unfair or unjustified treatment of employees. You should only use it for purposes they would reasonably expect. You should treat staff fairly. If the collection of this information is likely to have a negative consequence for an employee, you must be able to justify it.
You will need to respect any duty of confidentiality you owe. You should not disclose a person’s vaccine status unless you have a legitimate and necessary reason to do so. If you are recording vaccination information, you must ensure that you do not hold the information for longer than is necessary.
What other considerations should I make?
You should also consider other regulations in your particular industry. You may wish to consider current public health advice and the latest government guidance in your part of the UK.
Your reason for checking or recording people’s COVID status must be clear, necessary and transparent. If you cannot specify a use for this information and are recording it on a ‘just in case’ basis, or if you can achieve your goal without collecting this data, you are unlikely to be able to justify collecting it.
You will need to consider the sector you operate in and the kind of work your staff do. Consideration to the health and safety risks should help you to decide if you have reasons to check.
Does the UK GDPR apply if I decide to check people’s COVID status?
UK GDPR applies to certain ‘processing’ of personal data. It would not be seen as processing, if you are only conducting a visual check of COVID Passes and do not retain any personal data. Therefore, the activity would fall outside of the UK GDPR’s scope.
However, if you are conducting checks digitally, this would constitute processing of personal data. Even if you do not keep a record of it, the UK GDPR would therefore apply.
What else do we need to do if we process the COVID status of staff?
If you decide that you can justify implementing COVID status certification, you must be open and transparent. You must make sure that people understand why you need to collect this information, and what you’re using it for.
Finally, you will need to regularly review whether you still need to process COVID status data. You should ensure that the collection of this data is secure.
If you have more questions around ‘Can I check my employees COVID or vaccination status?’ Please contact us on 01706 565332 or drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get right back to you.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.