‘Smart’ businesses will ensure staff returning to work are vaccinated, says Dominic Raab

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A member of the medical staff holds a sign indicating she has briefed a patient and is ready for a vaccine to be administered - Ian Forsyth /Getty Images Europe
A member of the medical staff holds a sign indicating she has briefed a patient and is ready for a vaccine to be administered - Ian Forsyth /Getty Images Europe

Businesses should ensure their staff are vaccinated before returning to the workplace, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, said on Thursday that it was a "smart policy" for companies to insist on staff being double jabbed in order to come back to the office.

A government source told The Telegraph ministers wanted firms to advise their staff to take up the jab and "explain why it's obviously a sensible thing to do to protect yourself and others".

Mr Raab's intervention came in the wake of a series of companies announcing plans to make inoculation against Covid obligatory for all employees.

Pimlico Plumbers confirmed last month that it was enforcing a "no jab, no job" recruitment policy, while Google has said it would require full vaccination from all its 144,000 staff globally.

Ministers would need to look "carefully" at whether there should be "hard and fast legal rules" around the issue, Mr Raab told Sky News, but added: "Our message, overwhelmingly, is 'Get a jab'."

It is understood it is unlikely that rules mandating vaccine passports for certain leisure activities from late September will also be rolled out for all employment. "There's a big difference between things like nightclubs rather than work, which is essential," the government source said.

Downing Street appeared to give the green light to businesses to devise their own conditions for their employees, however.

Asked whether Boris Johnson was relaxed about the idea of employers insisting staff are double jabbed, a Number 10 spokesman said: "You would have to speak to the individual employers about their own policies."

Steve Baker, the Tory MP and deputy chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, raised concerns that "the Government is now encouraging discrimination in relation to vaccinations".

"We used to believe that medical information is confidential, now we're encouraging firms to demand knowledge of it. I find it at best distasteful and at worst disgusting," he said.

Earlier this month, the Commons voted through proposals to make Covid jabs compulsory for social care staff. The rules, to be brought in from October, also apply to NHS staff who enter care homes.

More than 30 Tory MPs rebelled, however, with Mark Harper accusing ministers of an "abuse" in failing to set out the impact of a "difficult and controversial" policy.

Mr Johnson went further last week, announcing that proof of vaccination will be required in nightclubs and other large and crowded venues from late September, once every adult in England has been offered two jabs. The proposal also sparked a backlash among Conservatives.

A number of frontbenchers are also anxious to avoid forcing the wider public to receive jabs. One minister said: "I'd prefer to promote awareness rather than compulsion."

Business chiefs called for clarity on Thursday. Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the Government must "set out clearly" its policy on vaccinating the workforce, including "how this relates to employment law and anti-discrimination law".

Experts have warned that imposing vaccine requirements on staff without a range of exceptions could be fraught with legal risk. Equalities legislation, data protection laws, and health and safety rules would have to be examined in each work setting, lawyers have advised.

Research by the British Chambers of Commerce suggests larger companies are more likely than smaller firms to have implemented or be considering vaccine requirements.

Tony Danker, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, told The Telegraph his organisation was against mandatory jabs, adding: "We don't believe in compulsory vaccination, but how can we help, either through promotion or logistical support or information support to help complete the vaccination programme."

He argued that a negative Covid test "in some ways is more important than proof of vaccination" and urged the Government to ramp up mass testing.

Mr Raab signalled that proposals to introduce mandatory vaccine passports were part of an effort to "coax and cajole" the hesitant to get jabbed.

Asked about plans to roll out proof of double vaccination beyond nightclubs to include football matches, concerts and other large events, he said the issue would become "much less relevant and much less salient" if uptake increased in the run up to September.

His comments appeared to confirm the suspicions of several ministers that briefings to the media in recent days have been targeted at the three million people aged 18-30 who are yet to receive a vaccine dose.

Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the Government's "overarching approach" is "to keep encouraging those who maybe weren't confident in getting the double vaccination".

He highlighted that in France, the announcement of plans for a widespread rollout of vaccine passports next month had sparked a "big surge in people getting the double vaccinations".

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