May 14, 2021
The British Chambers of Commerce today published new survey data which show that the vast majority of responding businesses have no plans in place to require evidence of vaccination from customers, suppliers or employees. The BCC has therefore called on the Government to set out plans as soon as possible for what operating conditions will be for businesses after the final phase of the roadmap so that businesses can plan effectively.
The data, from a survey of more than 1,000 businesses across a variety of sectors and based in all parts of the UK, also shows that social distancing and hand sanitising are the Covid-19 measures firms were most likely to expect to continue to have in place over the next 12 months.
When asked whether their business had any plans to require proof of vaccination from customers, suppliers or employees – 78 per cent of respondents said they had no plans to do so. Five per cent said they had already implemented such measures, six per cent said they were likely to do so in the future and 11 per cent said they needed more information.
Smaller firms were more likely than larger firms to have no plans to do so – with 80 per cent of businesses with less than 50 staff giving this response. Only four per cent of smaller firms said they already required proof vaccination and six per cent% said they were likely to in future.
For businesses with more than 50 staff, the proportion who had already implemented a requirement for proof of vaccination rose to nine per cent, with eight per cent saying they were likely to introduce it in the future and 13 per cent saying they needed more information. However, 69 per cent still said they had no plans at all to require proof of vaccination from customers, suppliers or employees.
When asked separately what Covid-19 measures they expected to have in place, or implement, over the next 12 months, the highest response was social distancing at 76 per cent. 61 per cent expected to have hand sanitiser available and over half, at 54 per cent, expected face coverings to be a part of their measures. Only nine per cent of firms expected to have no measures at all in place over the next 12 months.
Working practices seem set to continue to be disrupted, as 46 per cent percent report the expectation of continued changes to their workspace, such as screens or socially distanced desk arrangements, and 45 per cent report that they intend to limit access to their offices/premises.
Views of Businesses
Gareth Jones, Managing Director of In-Comm, a training services provider, said: “It could be challenging for us to implement a requirement for proof of vaccination. Safety is paramount to us, but the administrative processes involved would be laborious. We would also have major HR concerns over where this would place individuals not wishing to have the vaccine due to their personal beliefs.
“When it comes to other measures the main issue for us is that numbers are key to our sustainability and growth as a business. Actions that we have to take which reduce our number of learners take a real toll on us, so we would hope to return to our original cohort sizes as soon as it is safe to do so. Measures have to be fit for purpose as well as practicable to implement.”
Phil Calcutt, Director of A&M EDM, an engineering solutions company, said: “We’re concerned that ‘vaccine passports’ would be problematic to implement. We would have no legal sanction to ensure compliance and we’d expect a test case to drag on in the courts. If the NHS and care homes haven’t been able to implement this kind of stuff then how can businesses be expected to?”
Responding to the findings, Co-Executive Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, Hannah Essex, said:
“Businesses have worked hard to keep their customers and employees safe throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. This research shows that government must quickly clarify what measures will be required for businesses to maintain safety standards after we reach the final stage of the roadmap on 21 June. In particular, they must resolve the ongoing debate around the use of vaccine certification, providing clear and decisive guidance to business.
“There has been a great deal of mixed signals on the issue of businesses being required to demand proof of vaccination from customers, suppliers or employees. Our figures show that as it stands the vast majority of firms have no plans in place for such a scenario. So, if government is indeed planning to make this a requirement in any sector, then it must act rapidly to inform businesses so that they can adjust and prepare.
“Right now, many businesses are working on the assumption that they will be continuing with a variety of Covid-secure measures over the next 12 months including social distancing, mask wearing and various other interventions. Many of these measures come at a cost to business and can restrict firms’ ability to trade at full capacity. Government must clearly set out when, and in what way, it will be safe to change these practises so that businesses can fully play their part in the economic recovery from the pandemic.”