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Youth Council urges employers not to create barriers for workers who want to get vaccinated

Workers have reported facing some obstacles in attending appointments during their work shift.

Image: Shutterstock/STEKLO

THE NATIONAL YOUTH Council of Ireland has called on employers to give young workers the time off to get vaccinated on company time.

It comes after a number of employees have claimed that they have been docked pay or asked to ‘pay back’ the time taken to get their Covid-19 vaccine during a work shift.

This is despite repeated messages from the Government and from NPHET asking employers to facilitate workers attending their Covid-19 vaccine appointment.

Over 70% of the adult population are fully vaccinated, with a further 15% having received one of two doses. The rollout has moved on to those aged 16 and 17, but is also due to open for adolescents aged 12 to 15 sometime next month.

Ireland is vaccinating people at one of the fastest rates in the world at the moment. The Government is aiming to give the vaccine to the largest cohort of people possible, in order to give the population as a whole the greatest protection against Covid-19.

But vaccine take-up rates among younger cohorts of any population are usually lower than others. As a result, the Government has taken additional measures to increase uptake rates among young people – including partnering with dating apps.

One of the young retail workers who spoke to The Journal said that not being paid for attending vaccine appointments and being offered extra shifts instead was “definitely causing colleagues to not attend their appointments”.

The employees most affected appear to be people on lower wages, and tend to be either on a low weekly wage or on an hourly rate of pay. A large number of young people are among this cohort of workers.

James Doorley, NYCI Deputy Director said in a statement to The Journal:

“We support calls for employers to give young workers time off to take the vaccination on company time.

These businesses, many of whom have received State supports during the pandemic, should be acting in the public interest. In the middle of this pandemic they should be actively supporting young workers to be vaccinated – and not placing barriers in their way by docking pay unreasonably and by asking staff to take annual leave.

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Doorley added: “Most of these procedures are quick, ​usually 30 minutes or so in the vaccination centre and a maximum of 1-2 hours when travel included.

“Moreover, it is in the interests of the young people, especially those in front line roles such as retail and hospitality, to be vaccinated.

“It is also in the interests of customers and society as a whole, that we support vaccination so we can return to some level of normality.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar has previously said that employers need to “have a heart, basically” when asked about pay being docked to attend vaccine appointments during work shifts.

It should be possible to organise shifts and working time around appointments, but where that’s not possible, particularly when appointments are given at short notice, employers should be flexible.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that staff and customer-facing staff especially get vaccinated. It’ll help us to ensure that businesses stay open through the Delta wave and any future waves of infection.”

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