Published: 06:00, 17 February 2021
| Updated: 19:51, 18 February 2021
A number of employers are refusing to let staff leave work to get Covid vaccines - sparking a plea for understanding from a leading GP.
Dr John Ribchester says his Whitstable practice has observed the "worrying trend" since it began offering the coronavirus jab to people of working age.
An employment lawyer from Medway is urging employers to allow their workers time off to go and get their coronavirus vaccine
He is now appealing to employers to "be reasonable" and let their staff attend daytime vaccination appointments.
"We're now getting to people who are at working age," said the GP, who is senior and executive partner at Whitstable Medical Practice.
"They're keen to come to Saturday clinics, but regarding clinics that are held in the week, some are saying 'I'd really like to come but I can't come until after the working day', or 'can you move me to a Saturday because my employer won't release me to come for a vaccine'.
"It's a worrying trend. I don't think it's right that employers are saying 'no, we won't release you to get a Covid injection'.
"It was something I didn't see coming, but this is something that's possibly going to get worse as we get to younger and younger people in the vaccine roll-out.
"I would appeal to employers to release people to come to weekday clinics, so they can get the vaccine and get safe.
"From their own self-interest point of view, what's better for an employer? To let someone go for an hour, or to risk them catching Covid and being away from work for potentially a very long time?"
Dr Ribchester, who said in November the vaccine roll out would be a huge challenge, points out there are only a finite number of appointments available at the end of the working day.
At his practice, vaccine clinics currently begin at 8am, and run until 5.30pm or 8pm depending on how many doses are to be administered.
"We have to keep our staff going," he said. "We can't expect them to work throughout the day doing business as usual, and then to mount a clinic way into the night, which is what we'd have to do to serve those numbers.
"So come on employers, be reasonable.
"Please be sensible and compassionate. These people need their injections, and you need your workers to stay Covid-free."