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So far only a hypothetical situation, but what would you do?

(114 Posts)
Lizbethann55 Mon 29-Nov-21 14:55:16

A delightful young woman does the same job as me, but usually at a different site so we only work together occasionally depending on staffing problems and timetable issues. She is lovely, clever, charming and good at her job. Normally I enjoy working with her. But, she is a Covid non believer! Neither she, her husband or her son have been vaccinated. She won't wear a mask. ( During earlier mask wearing instructions she had a " Covid exempt" lanyard. I had presumed it was a medical reason, but apparently not). She doesn't even believe in or does any testing. Back when the vaccinations first came out, as we were furloughed, we were sent to help at the vax centres. I absolutely loved doing it, but she refused as she didn't believe or approve of them.
I have really worked hard to stay safe and have always worn a mask at work all day, on public transport and in shops and public places. I have had all my vaccinations.
Staffing at work at the moment is really bad and we are being moved all over the place. The chances are that sooner or later, I will be sent to work with her or she will have to come to my location. Do you think I would be entitled or justified to refuse to work with her?

Baggs Mon 29-Nov-21 15:14:54

I think it would not bother triple vaxxed me but you can only decide on how you feel. I don't think a refusal would be altogether unjustified. Hope it stays hypothetical.

Casdon Mon 29-Nov-21 15:24:46

I’d tell your manager now what your concerns are, so that he/she is aware in advance and can endeavour to prevent you having to work with her. If it’s impossible, you can also discuss with the manager what can be done to mitigate the risk to you then, eg working in separate rooms, she could be instructed to wear a mask, or whatever?

AGAA4 Mon 29-Nov-21 16:30:05

It might not happen but it sounds as though it is a concern for you.
If it happens just say you prefer not to work with her due to covid worries. You are justified in keeping yourself safe.

Galaxy Mon 29-Nov-21 16:33:20

Does that mean people would be allowed to say they wouldnt work with someone who is medically exempt because that's a very slippery slope.

rosie1959 Mon 29-Nov-21 16:36:38

I think you should mention your concerns to you manager but if it happens that you have to work with her there is not much you can do about it

Lizbethann55 Mon 29-Nov-21 16:38:38

Galaxy. You are right. But my colleague isn't medically exempt at all. She just genuinely doesn't believe in it. I also think that hardly any one should really be exempt from wearing masks. Anyone who works in a hospital has to wear a mask. My DD's best friend and colleague is seriously asthmatic but wears a mask all day and every day. If she didn't she couldn't go to work.

FarNorth Mon 29-Nov-21 16:45:33

Tbf, she is at more risk than you would be.

Speak to your manager and say that you don't want to work with anyone not wearing a mask if they are not medically exempt.

If your workplace has a policy that masks should be worn, then staff should do that.

Galaxy Mon 29-Nov-21 16:52:00

But if you wouldnt object to someone medically exempt then what you are really objecting to is her opinion. I am not having a go as I understand it's a difficult situation. But I dont see how that could be implemented in an employment situation if you are in a job where vaccines arent mandatory.

maddyone Mon 29-Nov-21 16:52:51

Definitely talk to your manager about this and say you’d rather not work with her if at all possible.

Smileless2012 Mon 29-Nov-21 17:03:30

As Galaxy has posted if it isn't mandatory where you work how could your request be implemented Lizbethannan? Has she actually told you she isn't medically exempt?

Witzend Mon 29-Nov-21 17:10:11

I’d tell the management, OP, and def. refuse to work with her. How dare she wear an ‘exempt’ lanyard when she has no medical reason to?

IMO anyone who genuinely is exempt should have to wear an officially issued lanyard. It’s IMO a massive flaw in the U.K. rules - and always has been - that anybody who doesn’t feel like wearing one can say they’re exempt - and nobody in shops or on buses etc, can challenge them.

In certain other countries they’ve always been much tougher - I can recall seeing ‘Masks Obligatory’ signs outside French shops, none of the cringing, ‘Please wear a face covering’ you see here.
Not that I’d go as far as whatever country it was where they had police in tube stations whacking with a baton anyone who wasn’t wearing one - but the U.K. is IMO far too soft on this.

HurdyGurdy Mon 29-Nov-21 17:23:06


Does that mean people would be allowed to say they wouldnt work with someone who is medically exempt because that's a very slippery slope.

Is it though? What gives a medically exempt person precedence over someone who isn't exempt, who is vaccinated, but who is very anxious? Or with someone at home who is ECV and they don't want to risk taking the virus home with them?

It's a difficult situation, because of course we don't want to curtail the activities of someone who is medically exempt, but we also need to show consideration to those who are worried or frightened.

Smileless2012 Mon 29-Nov-21 17:28:39

Or, what gives a person who isn't exempt, is vaccinated but very anxious precedence over a medically exempt person? I agree Galaxy "a very slippery slope".

Galaxy Mon 29-Nov-21 17:33:40

If their exemption is because of a disability then the equality act would ensure you couldnt curtail their activities.

eazybee Mon 29-Nov-21 17:44:20

Consult your manager , inform him of your concerns, and ask what the firm's policy is about mask-wearing, exemption, risks to others. I doubt if they have a specific policy but they need to have one in place very quickly, and ask to see it. Ask what the position is about being expected to work with someone who refuses to take any precautions at all, at a time of crisis.
Your colleague refused to work at vaccination centres because she doesn't approve or believe in them. You should be able to exercise a similar prerogative, because you don't approve of her behaviour, which is putting you at risk.

GagaJo Mon 29-Nov-21 17:50:19

There is a difference between being medically exempt and a non-believer though. An exempt person will presumably take some precautions, even if not being as careful as the OP. A non-believer will take no precautions at all, because they think it's all a fake. So an exempt person is safer to be around than an anti vaxxer/covid disbeliever.

I worked with one in the disbelieving category. He was an idiot. Quoted me the 5G guff. Ironically, but not totally surprisingly (didn't wear masks) he caught C19 and was quite ill. He was also responsible for about 10 students also catching it, because he didn't enforce mask wearing with the students he worked with.

There was NO way I could ask not to work with him because we were the entirety of our department. But I opened windows when he was in the room. Sat as far as possible away from him. And outright avoided him as much as possible, rude I know but...

Septimia Mon 29-Nov-21 18:14:08

At the worst, if you have to work alongside her, I suggest that you take all the precautions of hand sanitising, mask wearing etc and open the windows and doors for good ventilation. If she comments, then ask her to wear a mask as a courtesy to you and your concerns. Difficult, though.....

MissAdventure Mon 29-Nov-21 18:22:35

Colleagues aren't at liberty to be informed about the reasons a person is exempt.

Dinahmo Mon 29-Nov-21 18:32:02

I was listening to an interesting discussion about anti-vaxxers and some people thought that if the vaccine was in pill form they would be quite happy to take it. After all, it's only medicine.

What I find strange is that we all want preventive medicine which could prevent more serious ailments in the future. For example, for the last week or so I've been waking up with a painful neck and am looking at ways of dealing with the pain
before it gets worse and I may need to go to an osteopath. That's what the vaccine is - preventative medicine.

Liz46 Mon 29-Nov-21 18:40:46

We have (had) a friend who says there is no such thing as Covid and we bumped into her at the shops where she was wearing an exempt badge. I know there is nothing wrong with her and I have asthma and bronchiectasis but try my best to wear a mask.

She sent me various messages denying Covid and I finally snapped and told her about how badly family members have been affected. For instance BIL in hospital for the second time.

I then blocked her.

Galaxy Mon 29-Nov-21 18:49:14

And as some one says no one has to disclose their medical info to you so you could be working with a number of non vaccinated people who havent told you. I go into numerous schools for example none have ever requested my vaccination status. So hundreds of staff could be working with me on a weekly basis. I am fully vaccinated but they have no way of knowing that.

Hetty58 Mon 29-Nov-21 19:20:46

Lizbethann55, as a valued member of staff, your concerns should be taken seriously. When we're comfortable, we perform at our best.

There were a couple of people I preferred not to work with, a chap who didn't use deodorant (somewhat whiffy on a hot day) and a nervous woman who chattered incessantly.

I made my feelings known to my boss, who tried her best to make sure that we seldom worked together (and apologised if it was unavoidable).

MissAdventure Mon 29-Nov-21 19:23:57

There is a difference between medically exempt vs. a non believer, as has been said, but the virus won't know about any of that.
As it stands, if someone wants to buy an exemption lanyard and wear it, there is nothing to be done.

Baggs Mon 29-Nov-21 19:31:22

Normally one wouldn't know or be entitled to know the medical status of fellow employees. This pandemic has thrown up some serious ethical issues.

Admittedly, the "covid non believer" has voluntarily made her covid position known to others voluntarily.

Do tell us, should the dreaded situation occur, Lizbethann, how it is resolved.