With the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination well underway in the UK, you will likely be considering the potential impact it may have on your staff and workplace.
It’s anticipated that many employers will choose to encourage their employees to take the vaccine, without making it compulsory, but this is subject to the needs of each individual business.
Before making any decisions, it’s important to consider the various issues that come with vaccination.
Can employers make vaccination compulsory?
It’s likely to be reasonable to ask or encourage employees to be vaccinated, but we’d advise caution against making it a requirement.
As it may cause risks or issues including:
- Possible breach of human rights
- Potential discrimination (religion and belief, disability and pregnancy)
- Data protection concerns
There are some limited circumstances where it may be reasonable to require someone to have a Covid-19 vaccination to keep their job. Bear in mind that none of these situations has yet been tested in an Employment Tribunal.
If you were to pursue this route, clear communication and engagement with your employees, including involving any trade unions you recognise, will help, as will showing proper consideration of the reasons employees put forward to explain why they are unwilling to have the vaccination. It will also be important to show why you have assessed that the vaccination is so critical in your organisation.
In what circumstances is it reasonable to require an employee to be vaccinated?
As mentioned, there are some cases where making vaccination mandatory for your employees could be regarded as a ‘reasonable instruction’.
For example, it could be reasonable for those in social care settings and care homes to require employees to have the vaccine as a condition of employment. Refusal to do so could put vulnerable people at risk, as well as the employee themselves, and you may not be able to control this through other measures.
In these situations, you could consider making it a condition of employment for new recruits, but you should take a more cautious approach for existing employees.
Can employers indirectly compel employees to vaccinate?
We wouldn’t advise this, as employees may potentially have the grounds to issue a direct or indirect discrimination claim or claim constructive unfair dismissal if they resign in protest.
A better course of action would be providing employees with impartial, factual information to help them make informed decisions regarding their vaccination.
Do we have to give staff paid time off to have the vaccine?
If the vaccination appointment is during working hours, there is currently no legal requirement for employees to be paid for that time off.
However, we recommend that you consider doing so to incentivise employees to get the vaccine. This is likely to be beneficial as it will help protect other staff and customers.
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