‘Bizarre’ publicans are entitled to see proof of vaccination but not employers, says ISME head

‘Bizarre’ publicans are entitled to see proof of vaccination but not employers, says ISME head

ISME CEO Neil McDonnell employers not being allowed to ask workers their vaccination status is making other employees feel uncomfortable. Picture: File photo

The head of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises says it is “bizarre” that proof of vaccination is required to enter a pub, but not legally required for employers to know their workers’ vaccination status.

This comes as a recent survey by law firm McCann FitzGerald and consulting firm Mazars found two in three businesses believe employers should be allowed access to the vaccine statuses of their staff.

It also found more than half of organisations say the inability to process employees' vaccine status data has impacted on a return to the office.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, the ISME CEO said this is creating “difficulty” for employers who look to return to the workplace.

"We're not surprised with the results of that survey because the manner in which the new close contact information is to be processed by people — albeit it says people, not employers — but it relies on where you are in your vaccination cycle, your age, and whether you've been infected or not," said Neil McDonnell.

It is singularly unhelpful that employers do not know that, and it also creates difficulty for their vaccinated employees.” 

Mr McDonnell says this is because employers cannot ask workers their status, and in turn this is making other employees feel uncomfortable.

"There are employees across a whole spectrum of exposure to Covid out there, and they disclose their vaccination status to one another," he said.

"But I've dealt with cases where within employment one person says: 'I'm not vaccinated and I'm not going to get vaccinated', and the other employees have a very particular difficulty with that — which they represent to their employer — who's not entitled to act on that information.

Quite frankly, we find it bizarre that your local publican or your local restaurateur is entitled by law to see your vaccination cert, but your employer — where we may go into an office or work setting for eight hours — cannot."

Mr McDonnell says the rules for this are overly complex and the new close contact rules “are actually really difficult; you have to read them multiple times to make head or tail of them.” 

"Your average employer, who's not a lawyer or a qualified HR professional, is being asked to navigate an extremely complex set of rules," he said.

"But it is not helpful to approach these public health measures and these workplace safety measures from a civil liberties perspective.

"We could ultimately argue that not being allowed to take a couple of drinks before we hop in our car, or being required to wear a seatbelt, or being required to get Garda vetting if we work with children or vulnerable people — these are all intrusions into our civil liberties, but we accept those because they are necessary in the greater good.

"It should not fall to employers to have the finger pointed at them because they are trying to do that.”

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