In the near future, employment contracts could include clauses to enforce unpaid leave for quarantine periods and mandatory vaccinations for staff, according to HR2day.

The HR firm, based in Darlington, has received queries from clients, particularly small businesses, about how they can survive the long-term effects of COVID 19.

Many have been seeking legal advice about what can and can’t be asked of employees, including insisting that they obtain flu vaccines, and COVID vaccines once these become available, to avoid potentially infecting other members of staff.

The firm has also had concerned calls from businesses impacted by staff who need to quarantine following a holiday, leading them to miss two further weeks from work after annual leave.

Nicky Jolley, managing director of HR2day, thinks that in the near future, many employers may include a policy about quarantine in their employment contracts, and insist of mandatory vaccines for staff.

Nicky said: “We are still in unchartered waters and many businesses are still struggling to re-establish themselves post-lockdown. With the holiday season upon us, and many employees keen to get away after a stressful few months, many firms were hit hard when their staff were surprised by the recent quarantines when returning from Spain or France. The additional strain on the workforce could be catastrophic.

“As it stands, employers are not obligated to give full pay to anyone who can’t attend work, even though the government has stressed that an employee shouldn’t be penalised by the need to isolate. It is more black and white for employees who cannot work from home, for example in the manufacturing sector, but it can become more complex for an employee who has spent months working from home who is now forced to take unpaid leave due to a government-mandated quarantine.

“It is essential that business leaders communicate with their staff and listen to their concerns in order to achieve the best outcome for the business and its team. I would not be surprised if, in the near future, we’re asked to include a protection clause in contracts to cover firms in the event of quarantine, and again, I would highly recommend an open conversation with existing and new staff to explain why this is needed.”

Nicky has also had queries about whether an employer can insist on vaccinations for staff.

She added: “At present, an employer cannot insist that their employees have vaccinations but that could definitely change in the near future. An employer can recommend that vaccinations take place, but if the employee doesn’t consent to it, they would face difficulty enforcing it.

“If the law changes, I think a large number of employers, particularly SMEs, would include this as a term of employment, to protect themselves against potential closure if the virus peaks again.”