Hairdressers and others working in the 'close-contact' industry have a moral duty to disclose to clients if they have opted out of Covid vaccinations, a Scots academic has suggested.

It follows a case where a client made a complaint about an osteopath who had not advised them prior to their treatment that they had not been vaccinated.

The complaint was escalated to lawyers at the osteopath’s insurance broker.

The conclusion was that while the osteopath had the right to refuse the vaccination, the client also had the right to make an informed decision about their own health and should have been advised prior to the treatment that the osteopath had not been double vaccinated. 

There is no legal requirement for workers to inform employers or clients if they have not been immunised against Covid or any other virus.

The General Council for Massage Therapies (GCMT), which raised the case, said it was not clear what the outcome was. 

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It has advised its members that best practice, in line with health and safety at work legislation, is that they should state if they have been vaccinated or not and should only treat clients who have been vaccinated.

However, it does not believe this should be mandated and said individual therapists should make their own informed decision.

Dr Guy Fletcher, senior lecturer at Edinburgh University’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences believes there is a moral argument for such workers to disclose vaccine status to clients.

“I think that someone in these contexts has a moral duty to divulge that they’ve opted out, even if not asked – even if it also makes sense for this not to be a legal requirement,” he said. 

“To me it seems very obvious that someone working in that industry has a duty to disclose their vaccination status if they are asked.

HeraldScotland:

"The person who is potentially going to be receiving treatment from them needs to be able to assess how comfortable they are with risk and they can’t do that if the person is unwilling to disclose their status.

“But of course each of us can spread the virus among ourselves so another reason for it is that each potential client can know how much of a risk they are imposing on other people.

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“If I didn’t have a high risk of exposure to the virus through my job and through my kids, I would definitely ask. I can’t imagine that many people would be unwilling to disclose that.

“When you are paying for a service from someone that includes various forms of risk and people can be willing if they want to take less risk and it’s a very salient risk – the risk of catching Covid from someone.

“People deserve to be able to say, ‘I’m not willing to visit that hairdresser’. I don’t really see what argument there could be not disclosing it. 

He added:“Privacy has its limits and within the context of a disease within a pandemic it seems like that is outweighed by people knowing how much risk they are being exposed to.”

All UK doctors are required to provide an immunisation record but it is not made available to patients.

The latest data shows more than 72% of Scots have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, ahead of England at 69.2%.

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Professor Hugh McLachlan, Emeritus Professor of Applied Philosophy at Glasgow Caledonian University, believes workers should only feel morally obligated to disclose vaccine status if they are  questioned about it.

He said: “If you see someone begging on the street and you pinched money from their tin that would be wrong. The person has a moral right that you don’t steal from them.

“If you walk past the beggar and don’t give money, that’s not blameworthy. It’s better if you do give money - that’s praiseworthy but if you walked past that is morally neutral.

HeraldScotland:

“I think if you are not vaccinated and you don’t say, that’s not praiseworthy but it’s not an infringement of the client’s rights. 

“If someone goes to the hairdresser are they morally obliged to tell the hairdresser that they are not vaccinated? 

“We shouldn’t unreasonably put people at risk but there is the other question of how far should we go to make sure that the other person is not at risk.”