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You can but you shouldn’t unless you have a legitimate reason to do so.

Coronavirus vaccines have been approved and are being rolled out. Whilst the government has drawn up a priority recipients list, it has pledged to offer the vaccine to all adults by the autumn.

Currently, you can’t insist that an employee has a coronavirus vaccine. This is a matter of personal choice that may be affected by other factors such as health conditions, allergies, fertility concerns or personal or religious beliefs.

But can you ask if they’ve had a coronavirus vaccine? This question itself isn’t unlawful but that doesn’t mean you should ask without good cause.

The law

Questions about vaccine status will concern sensitive personal data. The collection of sensitive personal data is governed by the General Data Protection Regulation that states that the data processor, which will be you in the employment setting, must have lawful grounds and a legitimate reason for collecting and processing such data.

What is legitimate?

Curiosity is not enough. Neither is: ‘We need to know to keep our workplace safe.’ Whether you have a legitimate reason for asking about vaccine status will depend on your workplace and how your employees work.

If all of your employees permanently work from home, their coronavirus vaccine status is irrelevant, so you shouldn’t ask about it.

What if your employees work closely with others?

Tread carefully. The situation is developing and we are still learning about the vaccines. Those vaccines that are available do not guarantee that recipients cannot transmit Covid-19.

Until the legal position is clarified by the Information Commissioner’s Office, don’t compel your employees or job applicants to disclose their coronavirus vaccine status to you unless you clearly have a legitimate reason to do so because it is necessary for someone to do their job. An example is where they travel overseas and need to be vaccinated.