5th October 2021
No Jab, No Job – right or wrong?
As many businesses return to some semblance of normality with employees back at their desks – at least for some of the week – how do managers keep their teams safe from catching COVID?
Outside of the health and care sector, can businesses force their staff to have the vaccination?
The simple answer is no.
Demanding that staff have their two doses of the vaccine is both a moral and legal minefield and can certainly be argued that it’s against human rights, especially if for some reason the member of staff is medically unable to have the jab.
The Government has passed legislation to ensure all workers in the healthcare sector are jabbed, but this won’t come into force until November, and this will also impact those employers who routinely send employees to work in environments that are covered by this legislation, such as care homes.
Meanwhile, and unlike in The States, it is not mandatory here in the UK to have the vaccine in any other sector.
This poses difficulties to employers who have to balance keeping their vaccinated staff safe and limit the risk of absenteeism, with not leaving themselves open to claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal. This is especially the case as no existing employment contracts are likely to have the requirement for staff to be vaccinated, and no-one can be forced to have a medical procedure against their will.
Employers are legally obliged to ensure they reduce any workplace risks under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, so this means it is reasonable to encourage your teams to be vaccinated to protect themselves and everyone else at the workplace. Although encouraging and obligating are two different things.
Good and consistent communication should help employees make informed decisions about the COVID jab and employers should listen to any staff concerns about having the jab, perhaps pointing them to reliable sources of information about it.
It may be that unvaccinated staff could be encouraged to work from home – where that’s appropriate, or other adjustments could be made to their working arrangements in a bid to keep them, their colleagues, and any service users safe.
As these have been unprecedented times, businesses should now look to instigate and update their COVID policies, outlining the business’s view on vaccination and COVID security and explaining the expectations on managers and employees.
For more information on COVID related employment practices, contact Kerrie Hunt - email firstname.lastname@example.org