Emma Swan: Vaccine passports could prove more than a customer problem for hospitality

Requiring customers to produce vaccine passports could create employment law problems for hospitality businesses.

If hospitality and leisure venues such as pubs, restaurants and cinemas request customers to produce a vaccine certificate, there’s also a reasonable argument that they should require the same of employees. Staff at these venues will be closely interacting with customers and it would be very difficult to plausibly argue a real point of difference between a non-vaccinated employee and not admitting a customer who doesn’t have a vaccine passport.

If vaccine passports are used, hospitality and leisure businesses serving the public risk getting to a point where they might not be able to employ non-vaccinated people, and employers need protecting against the risks this presents. Hospitality operators may need to consider drawing up staff vaccination policies.

Drawing comparisons with doctors already having hepatitis B jabs isn’t particularly useful for hospitality businesses. The medical care sector is well used to implementing staff vaccination policies and these link to ethical guidance and moral codes that are widely practiced and adhered to via codes of conduct.

Government shouldn’t be putting the onus on individual publicans or businesses to make decisions about vaccine passports. This isn’t fair on employers or useful to them at a time when they are focused on trying to reopen and make money after many months of no revenue.

Instead, the government review of vaccine certification needs to offer clear guidelines on the use of vaccine passports and how this will impact all staff interfacing with the public. Clear guidelines can then be used by companies to adhere to changing circumstances, while respecting employment laws, as we follow the roadmap out of lockdown.

Emma Swan is head of commercial employment at Forbes Solicitors