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Workers frustrated at pay being docked and working extra shifts for attending vaccine appointments

“It is definitely causing colleagues to not attend their appointments,” one Dublin-based retail worker said.

Image: Shutterstock

A NUMBER OF employees have expressed their frustration at not being facilitated to attend vaccine appointments during work hours, with some docked pay and others being told to work extra shifts to ‘pay back’ time, which one worker said was deterring colleagues from signing up for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Among the types of businesses that employees have claimed are not facilitating vaccine appointments are a semi-state company, creches, and large retailers.

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.

Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan said that he’s “not surprised” that this has arisen as an issue, and has had a “bucket load” of inquiries from workers asking about employers’ obligations in facilitating vaccine appointments. 

“If you’re docked pay for [attending a vaccine appointment], it’s a claim under the Payment of Wages Act,” he told The Journal.

If an employer tells a worker they won’t be paid for attending a vaccine appointment, and that they also won’t be given the time off to attend it, Grogan says that “depending on what said or done, it’s very close to victimisation” under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Grogan said that the employer is obliged under Health & Safety Authority legislation amended earlier this year to facilitate the return to work, to pay for your vaccination, and claims can be submitted to the Workplace Relations Commission if they do not. 

If that claim is found to be successful. They then run the risk of a HSA inspection. A possible prosecution on our health and safety legislation for not protecting the health and safety of staff.

He said that the employer is also obliged to pay for your vaccination.

“So that, in my view, includes not only the cost of the vaccination, but actually getting the vaccination, which is going there, getting it, and getting back.”

Testimonies: ‘After working through the pandemic, and to be treated like that’

Since The Journal revealed this week the experiences of retail workers in trying to attend vaccine appointments during work hours, a number of other workers have sent in their experiences of not being facilitated to attend vaccine appointments during work hours.

A retail worker based in Dublin said:

I emailed a senior HR manager asking for clarification on their vaccination policy and was told that we will not be paid for attending our vaccines and they are offering extra shifts to make up the hours. It is definitely causing colleagues to not attend their appointments.

A customer care worker based in Cork said:

For my first jab I did not get payed for the time taken. For the second one, I was asked to stay the two hours after I finished my shift. Which I declined and offered to stay [and do] extra time the next week. 

A worker with a security company at a venue that hosts weddings “nearly every day” said that they decided to get vaccinated because of the numbers in attendance.

I had to get two days off for the two injections and was made to use holidays so I would get paid. Absolute disgrace. After working all through the pandemic and to be treated like that.

A creche worker said:

I was told that anytime that I was off to get my vaccine it would be unpaid. I have to clock out when leaving the building, and due to a medical condition I couldn’t return to work so had to have the rest of the day off – all unpaid leave. No chance to reclaim this time back.

The semi-state company

A semi-state company sent a note, seen by The Journal, to employees about Covid-19 vaccination, including the line:

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“Employees should attempt to secure a vaccine appointment outside of their normal working hours, or as close to the start or the end of the working day as possible.”

Unions responded by asking the company to issue “a further notification stating that workers will be afforded time off, if needed, to get their vaccine”.

It is understood that this has not happened.

Grogan said that if asking a pharmacy for a vaccine appointment, it’s quite reasonable to say ‘Could you do it at 8am or would you do it at 6.30pm?’

But if the pharmacy goes comes back and isn’t able to be flexible with appointments, then the employee has made their attempt, he said, and their employer should facilitate that appointment.

‘An obligation on the employer’

In the case of a HSE appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, the person does not have a choice of what appointment they get.

Grogan said:

If somebody is given a vaccine appointment, and if an employer impedes that, and the employees and catches Covid-19 and they bring it into the workplace, then there is an issue that was due to the negligence.

“Whether you’re pro- or are anti-vaccination, there can be no question of an employer seeking to restrict an employee who wants to get the vaccination, getting the vaccination. There’s an obligation on the employer to apply the Health and Safety legislation would be to get it as soon as possible and you pay for it.”

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