Are mandatory vaccinations possible?
It seems a long time since Pimlico Plumber owner, Charlie Mullins, coined the phrase ‘no jab, no job’ for Coronavirus vaccinations. Since then, many employers are wondering how forceful they can be with staff around vaccination. Delta airlines have recently announced that if any of their staff choose not to be vaccinated, they’ll lose $200 per month to pay for additional testing that they say will be required.
So can you tell your staff that they must be vaccinated? Can you put financial pressure on them to do so in the UK?
In this post we’ll outline the key points to consider and the reasonable steps that you could take.
Unless you operate within a sector where a legal requirement has been introduced, such as care homes, you cannot currently require employees to be vaccinated. You may well have employees who are advised not to have a vaccine, or whose religion, or anti-vaccination beliefs preclude it.
Your Vaccination Policy
You can implement a Vaccination Policy to encourage vaccination.
The creation of such a policy should dovetail with your existing Disciplinary and Grievance policy, and help to avoid disputes.
When designing your policy, think about what support you might want to include round vaccination, for example paid time off for the vaccination appointment, and paid leave for any resulting sick leave.
Consider too how you could manage the safe return to the workplace of unvaccinated staff, or the impact that return may have on others. Business related travel could be affected by an employees vaccination status, so is another area for consideration.
Health & Safety
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers are required to protect their employees. It could be argued therefore that it’s reasonable to expect all employees to be vaccinated.
Under the same Act, employees have a responsibility to support the Employer in providing a safe working environment.
It’s too early to tell whether this is likely to lend any weight to the argument for or against vaccines in the workplace.
Any differences between how you treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees could trigger claims of discrimination. You’ll need to keep in mind the ‘Protected Characteristics’ for employees.
Religion or belief – Whilst we tend to include recognised religions when we think of this characteristic, there are other elements that it includes. This could include those who could be classified as ‘anti-vaccination’ as well as ethical vegans for example.
Age – As the vaccine rollout has gone on, this has become less of an issue, as most age groups have been offered a vaccination, but depending on the decision around any boosters, this may again become a more important consideration.
Disability – Certain medical conditions mean that some people are advised not to have a vaccination.
Although it feels that we’ve been living with the pandemic and varying restrictions for an incredibly long time, in legal terms it’s still very new. It will take time for the implications of all of the above to work through the legal system and for it to be clear what that best route is for employers.
Our recommendation is that you have clear and open conversations with your team, but also with your HR advisor. They will be watching the developing situation closely and will be in the very best position to advise you. Please don’t risk imposing policies or making decisions around this subject without seeking their guidance.
If you don’t have an advisor you can rely on, if you’re a client of ours you can use the HR advice line that’s included in our fee protection package. In reality though, it would be a really good idea to work with an HR advisor where they get to know your business and your plans for the future, and can give your practical, relevant advice.
If you’d like us to put you in touch with the advisor we relied on throughout the time we employed a large team, please ask!
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