Should firms encourage staff to receive the Covid vaccine?
Our roving partner makes a strong case for maximising coronavirus vaccination coverage in any accountancy practice.
At present, we live in a country that seems to be perpetually at war with itself on any number of fronts.
Without thinking too widely, there are fundamental disagreements over freedom/safety in the context of coronavirus, the need to level the North up at the expense of the South and, the granddaddy of them all, whether it is a good idea to leave Europe with no deal (or at all?).
I’m sure that readers who like to keep their fingers on the parliamentary pulse will already have spotted an obvious link between these causes.
Each of them has its own dedicated “Research Group” consisting of libertarian MPs who believe that they could rule the country far better than the Prime Minister whom they have chosen.
While we can happily leave others to fight these causes, although it is inevitable that the occasional accountant will get caught in the crossfire, our lives will change dramatically depending on who comes out on top.
In my eyes, the big surprise is that, to date at least, no Vaccine Research Group has been set up, given the growing prevalence of and fuss made by the anti-vaxxer brigade.
According to recent polls, the balance between those who would kill to get vaccinated against coronavirus and others who either believe that it is the work of the devil (or Bill Gates) or just don’t yet feel confident about its safety is not too far from 50:50.
At the moment, the timeline for vaccinations to protect the general public from coronavirus is unclear.
If you believe health secretary Matt Hancock, everybody over 50 will have been inoculated by the end of April 2021. However, according to suggestions not denied by the newly appointed vaccine czar Nadhim Zahawi, the actual rate of progress might be one million a week. That is correct, it will take over a year for everyone over 50 to get vaccinated based even on the most optimistic assumptions.
Either way, at some point those running accountancy practices will be obliged to consider the implications.
Zahawi suggested in a recent interview that entertainment venues might refuse to admit prospective fun seekers unless they could prove that that they had an up-to-date inoculation record.
My immediate reaction was that if such a policy was good enough for the Royal Opera House, Wembley Stadium or the Red Lion at the top of the road, then surely accountants should be considering a similar policy.
For the moment, let us ignore the obvious problem that anyone under 50 may not be able to get a jab and, in the same vein, not worry too much about the prospect that the vaccine may only be a 70% effective.
The general consensus is that most of us want to reopen our offices as safely as possible with maximum occupancy. If the law and employment contracts allow, it must surely make sense to demand that everybody working for your organisation protects themselves and their fellows by taking this important, government-sponsored step. At the very least, partners should be leading the way by example and strongly encouraging everyone to follow suit.
The consequences of taking an alternative, libertarian view as propagated by the Vaccine Research Group once it is set up could be damaging in the extreme.
For example, if we assume that only 50% of the firm’s employees and partners get vaccinated and the vaccine is 70% effective, then up to 65% of workers could become sick at the same time if a super spreader gets to work in the office. If everybody is vaccinated then this would be reduced to 30% – far from ideal but definitely preferable.
Ignoring the pain and suffering, with the prospect of the occasional death not completely ruled out, this would catastrophically disrupt business for a considerable time.
Looked at from the other end of the equation, if your firm is able to certify to clients that it has 100% Covid-19 vaccine coverage, this might be a really good selling point, encouraging visits to the office and meetings and possibly even helping the practice to win tenders over more short-sighted competitors.
There’s a long way to go in the battle to defeat this pernicious virus but it is never too early to make plans for a prosperous and safe future and that might start by reviewing employment contracts.