Can employers keep a record of employees’ vaccines?
With changes being made to allow individuals certain freedoms when they have been fully vaccinated and with the work from home guidance being lifted by the Government, you will be likely implementing your return to the workplace plan.
But what if you want to check your employees’ vaccination status before they return to the workplace?
Under data protection (GDPR) laws, an individual’s vaccination status would be classed as, “special category data” as it is their private health information. Use of this type of special data must be fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose. Employers will therefore need a legal basis for collecting this data.
Employers will need to consider what it is that they are trying to achieve and how asking for your employees’ vaccination status helps to achieve that aim. If the employer intends to collect this information on a ‘just in case’ basis or are unable to set out why this information is required, the employer is unlikely to be able to justify collecting this data. However, if the employees work in a healthcare setting or if there are enhanced COVID risks, this may justify your collection of this data.
The employer’s reason for collecting and recording employees’ vaccination status will likely depend on the sector and the health and safety risks in the workplace.
If the employer collects the data it must be for a legitimate reason i.e. health and safety. The data must also only be used purposes that employees would reasonably expect. Being open and transparent with employees as to why the employer requires this information is important.
If the employer is collecting and recording vaccine status data, the employer is processing personal data and the UK GDPR would apply. Employers must make sure collection of this data is secure and that it is not disclosed unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so.
We suggest that if you have a legitimate reason for requiring this data, that the employers asks the employees to volunteer this information rather than requesting that they provide this. Being vaccinated is a personal choice and therefore employer’s should be careful that requesting this information does not result in any unfair or unjustified treatment of employees. This may be the case where an employee has a protected characteristic in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 i.e. a disability or a religious or philosophical belief.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published useful guidance on this topic. This can be found here.
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