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Investment Bank makes Vaccines Compulsory for Staff Returning to Work in UK

BNY Mellon Investment Management has indicated that it will require UK staff to be vaccinated before being allowed back into the office, becoming the first large asset manager in the country to make inoculation mandatory.

The firm joins a growing list of US-headquartered banks and asset managers that have stipulated that staff must be vaccinated before returning to work, after BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley also made it a condition for returning to the office.

However, up until now mandatory Covid vaccines have only applied to their US workforces and not those based in the UK or Europe.

Employers are weighing up the benefits, and potential pitfalls, of mandatory vaccine policies

People with knowledge of the matter said the policy would apply to staff in the UK and certain sites in Asia.

BNY Mellon appeared to confirm this when asked directly by Ignites Europe if the policy would apply to staff in the UK.

“In an effort to provide the safest possible in-office experience for our employees, where permitted by local regulations, vaccines will be required for entry into offices,” a spokesperson says.

“However, there will be reasonable accommodations for medical reasons or religious beliefs.”

The firm did not comment specifically on whether it applies to other European jurisdictions.

The UK government has previously suggested that it would be legal to make vaccination mandatory and more recently senior ministers have publicly voiced their support for such policies.

“No jab, no job” policies have so far largely been confined to care homes after the government brought in specific legislation and have yet to play out in other sectors.

However, this appears to be slowly changing as firms weigh up the need for mandatory vaccines, with Bank of America and publisher Bloomsbury recently announcing that double vaccination would be mandatory for their UK office workers.

Daniel Parker, associate in the employment practice at Winckworth Sherwood, says an increasing number of employers are giving “real thought” to asking employees about their vaccination status and using that to inform their return to work.

“BNY may be far from isolated in that regard,” he adds.

Mr Parker says it is a particularly pressing issue for multinational employers with “varying workplace cultures”.

“A uniform approach might offer certainty and ease of management, and appeal to those most enthusiastic about a return to the office. On the other hand, the levels of the virus, the progress of the vaccination rollout, and local employment and data protection rules continue to vary widely worldwide.”

BNY Mellon operates 10 office sites in the UK, including its Europe, the Middle East and Africa headquarters in London.

The group employs almost 50,000 staff globally.

BlackRock told staff in the US that they would have to be fully vaccinated to go into office premises this summer, later confirming that the policy would not apply to offices in the UK or Europe.

Meanwhile Vanguard is offering its US-based employees $1,000 (€845) to get jabbed instead of mandating it. The firm says the incentive will not be offered to staff in the UK or Europe, though it “strongly encourages” employees to get a vaccine.

Employment experts in the UK continue to warn that "no jab, no job" policies could leave firms open to discrimination claims.

Caroline Walker, managing director at Cavendish Employment Law, says employers are obliged to have regard for their employees’ health and safety, which may require them to have regular testing to attend the workplace, “but this does not currently extend to mandatory vaccines”.

“In my opinion, the employer may be exposed to potential legal challenges if they sought to impose conditions on employees having Covid vaccines, which are currently only mandatory for employees working in care homes.”

She says the challenge for employers is to “carefully balance their duty of care” to all employees in respect of health and safety, “whilst respecting the freedom of choice for other employees in respect of whether they elect to take up the vaccine”.

Mr Parker says some employers may instead frame their policies in a more “permissive way”, by encouraging vaccination and welcoming those who have had theirs, rather than excluding others.

He says the duty of care owed to vaccinated employees is likely to be a key argument for employers seeking to justify mandatory vaccination, but adds: “It is only one factor, and employers will need to bear in mind the latest public health rules and guidance, the particular risks of their workplace/industry and near-term solutions such as some continuing hybrid work.”

A more common approach being taken, and one that is less likely to be subject to challenge by employees, according to Ms Walker, is to require staff to take lateral flow tests, temperature checks and isolate if they have Covid symptoms or have been in contact with anyone who has.

Thomas Gibbons, chief executive officer of BNY Mellon, confirmed that the business would roll out a hybrid work model for the majority of staff this year, but exact details have not been disclosed.

BNY Mellon was forced to drop plans to ban staff working from home in 2019 after employees threatened the firm with a lawsuit.

According to reports at the time, employees warned of an exodus of working parents at its London office.

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