It feels like we are finally coming out the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, with (at time of writing, April 2021) 65% of over 18s having received their first dose.
At the time of writing, everyone over 40 has been invited to get their vaccine, alongside those classed as vulnerable. The country is scheduled to have offered the first vaccine to all adults by the end of July 2021.
Controversy around insisting on COVID vaccination
We have known from the very beginning that whether vaccination should be mandatory or not will cause controversy. The world is talking about vaccination passports, and everyone, including the church, are pitching in on whether this is morally acceptable or not.
In more practical terms, there has been debate on whether vaccination should be mandatory for frontline healthcare workers, and it appears that there is no concrete answer as to whether this would be legal or ethical. The bottom line is that, even for the most risky professions, working with most vulnerable people, vaccines are not (yet) mandatory.
In the context of this, we have been doing some research into whether it is legal and/or ethical for parents to impose vaccination as a compulsory measure for their current or future nanny.
Can parents insist that their nannies, in their current jobs, get the COVID-19 vaccine?
So, a nanny has a job, and her employer is now mandating that she gets a vaccination in order to keep her job. This is not a hypothetical scenario, we’ve had this crop up at myTamarin.
What does this mean for the nanny and her employer?
First off, although there was initially confusion around nannies' eligibility for early vaccination, nannies aren’t able to be fast-tracked up the vaccine queue. Therefore, most nannies are not yet able to get their first dose as the majority are under the age of 40 and are not classed as vulnerable. In fact, on average, given their ages, parents will be eligible for vaccinations earlier than most nannies.
While many of those parents who do want their nanny to have the vaccine are happy to wait until the nanny is eligible, this itself also has considerations. One could argue that once the parent has been vaccinated, how important is it really for their nanny to be vaccinated when it comes to the health of the family?
While it would reduce the risk of the nanny having to take time off work due to contracting coronavirus, parents don’t generally demand nannies take up any other form of vaccination.
Parents are also sending their children to schools and nurseries, and most teachers and nursery nurses are not vaccinated yet. As a nanny is your direct employee these conversations around vaccination so seem more appropriate. However, it may seem like a double standard.
No, you can't insist on vaccination without changing the employment agreement
More importantly, given that there is no mandate from the government for the vaccine to be mandatory, either for the general public, or certain professions - at least not yet - it is very likely that you cannot make the vaccination a mandatory requirement for your nanny to keep their job.
This cannot be the reason to let her go. Unless of course you both agree to change the terms of the employment agreement or the nanny has at least had a chance to actually get her jab.
Can parents make the COVID-19 vaccine a mandatory requirement for a nanny job they advertise?
It is one thing to let your current nanny go due to them not wanting (or not being able to get) the vaccination, but is it reasonable to require this of your future nanny?
Something to note is that given that the majority of nannies haven’t yet been offered the vaccination, this really limits your pool of choice. (But this will hopefully change soon!)
One way parents have been approaching this is to say that as long as the nanny is happy to get the vaccine once it is offered, that is good enough for them.
In principle, requesting a nanny to have her vaccination is just another requirement for a job - in the same way that parents require a nanny who can speak French or has a Montesorri degree. It seems mandating this for a future nanny rather than one already employed is probably more widely accepted, though potentially still controversial.
Another consideration is that we will probably need to continue to get booster jabs. Does this mean that a nanny would need to get booster shots in order to keep her job? With this in mind, do parents want this written in as part of the contract?
Can nannies demand that parents be vaccinated?
It does seem logical that if parents can demand one thing, nannies can also do the same for them. Nannies can of course leave their job, respecting their notice period, for whatever reason, including parents not getting vaccinated. Nannies can also refuse to take up jobs where they feel there is too much risk for them. For example, we have had situations where nannies have refused to work for a family where one, or two of the parents are working as doctors.
Should I require my nanny to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
It is up to each individual to make up their own mind, but here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering making vaccination a prerequisite for your nanny’s employment.
Are your children going to a nursery or school, socialising with other children (and their parents) and workers, who may, or may not be vaccinated?
When you are going to the gym, swimming pool, hairdresser etc, are you checking whether those people are vaccinated?
When you are going out, to socialise with your friends, are you checking each individual’s vaccine status?
Sure, your nanny will be in much closer and longer contact with you than you will be with the folks above, but still, how critical is it really for your nanny to be vaccinated? Or to be vaccinated even before it’s their turn for vaccination?
Ultimately, you must do what makes you feel comfortable. We haven’t seen many nannies refusing the vaccine. In fact, most nannies would like to get their jab as soon as possible, but not everyone has had the opportunity to do so.
As we move forwards into ‘the new normal’, we hope the subject of vaccination will become less relevant for parents, nannies and wider society.