1. Is it compulsory for NICS employees to have a COVID-19 vaccination?
Vaccinations are not compulsory. NICS strongly urges staff who can have the vaccine to attend their vaccination appointment when invited. Staff will be given time off work to attend their allocated appointment, if this falls within their working hours. Information on the vaccination programme can be found on the NI Direct website
2. Will I get time off to attend my vaccination appointment?
In line with the usual arrangements for attending medical appointments, staff may have paid time off work to attend their vaccination appointment, and should attend when invited to do so. The efficient roll-out of the vaccination programme is a priority, and it is likely that some staff will be allocated an appointment slot during their normal working hours. Line managers must approve time off work to attend, on production of evidence of the appointment. During this stage of the vaccination roll-out, line managers must not ask staff to reschedule their allocated appointment for business reasons, or to reschedule it outside working hours. However, where staff are invited to select their own appointment through a booking system, appointments should be arranged for the beginning or end of the working day, where this is possible.
3. Are NICS staff prioritised for the vaccine because of their role?
The roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is based on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group. JCVI have recommended which groups should be prioritised to receive the vaccine. At present, NICS staff are not identified within priority groups on the basis of their roles. Individual staff may fall within the priority groups through their age or health profile. Information on the priority groups and phasing of the roll-out programme can be found on the Department of Health website
4. My staff member has experienced side effects to the vaccination and is unfit for work; how should this be recorded?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Very common side effects include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
If an employee is off sick as a result of side effects of the vaccine, this should be recorded as a normal sickness absence. Such absences will be considered sympathetically for the purposes of the application of sickness absence procedures. It should not be recorded as a COVID sickness absence, which is specifically for when someone has the primary COVID infection.
5. I am in the defined clinically extremely vulnerable group; if I am unable to work from home, do I have to return to the workplace once I receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination?
If government shielding advice is in place advising clinically extremely vulnerable people not to attend the workplace you should continue to follow this information. Even if you have received both doses of the vaccination you should continue to follow government shielding advice when this is in place. You should not be asked to return to office working until government advice advises that you can.
6. Once I have been vaccinated, do I need to continue with social distancing in the workplace?
Even if you have received both doses of the vaccination, you must continue to comply with all social distancing measures, and all other health and safety requirements appropriate to your workplace, in accordance with the prevailing government health advice.
7. Does the same guidance relating to vaccinations apply to Agency staff?
Agency staff may have paid time off to attend their vaccination appointment, as set out at Question 1 above. The other guidance as set out in Questions 2 – 5 above also apply to Agency staff.