STAFF at a large Bournemouth employer are being told to take weekly Covid tests – with “help towards” the cost – if they refuse to be vaccinated.

Employees at the insurer Vitality will be expected to pay for the PCR tests with the help of money the company allocates for them to spend on healthcare.

The move comes as the insurer, whose Bournemouth office is on Richmond Hill, moves to a hybrid working model that will require staff to be in the office for at least two days a week.

A statement from the company said: “This month, we begin the next phase of our hybrid working pilot, where employees will spend at least two days per week in the office and continue to work at home for the rest of the time.

“We believe this hybrid approach will improve collaboration and create valuable learning opportunities for our people.

“In planning for this return, our priority has been to put the right measures in place to keep everyone safe and we strongly believe that we can all work together more safely in the office when everyone is vaccinated.

“We have been encouraging our people to take up the opportunity of vaccination to better protect us all from infection, serious illness or worse, in line with advice from Public Health England.”

It added: “We understand that some people will choose not to be vaccinated. However, in order to both minimise transmission of the virus and foster confidence among the wider workforce as we spend more time together in the office, employees who have not been vaccinated will be required to have a PCR test, the most reliable test available, every week, from October 4. Employees can use their company-funded Personal Health Funds towards the costs of these tests. For those that have been advised by a doctor not to have the vaccination for medical reasons, we are making accommodations.

“As an employer, our priority is to keep our offices and our people safe. We firmly believe we have reached decisions that are in the collective best interest of all our people.”

The Personal Health Fund is money allocated for a defined set of health services such as opticians’ and dental treatments, which the company said now includes PCR tests.

The amount in each employee’s fund depends on length of service and the status earned by engaging with the company’s health and wellbeing programme.

The company said this would “help towards the cost of PCR tests”.

At present, staff in regulated care homes are the only workers who will be forced by law to be vaccinated against Covid unless they have a medical exemption.