The UK is making great strides with its voluntary vaccination programme. Employers are now having to grapple with their approach to employee vaccinations, including whether they can require employees to be vaccinated as a pre-condition of attending the workplace, and if an employee refuses whether they are permitted to dismiss or exclude the employee.
Currently there are no signs of the UK government introducing a compulsory vaccination programme. The operation of a voluntary programme makes it more challenging for employers to lawfully demand its workforce take the vaccine in order to preserve the employment relationship, and especially now when the vaccine is not available to all.
Some employers may be able to justify the exclusion from the workplace of those who have not taken the vaccine. It is a decision which would need to be considered carefully, taking into account the particular circumstances of each case, and would require robust justification.
There are many reasons why an individual might legitimately be unable, or refuse, to be vaccinated and employers could risk litigation if they force employees to be vaccinated or punish them for refusing. The individual’s reasons for objection or failing to be vaccinated should be carefully considered, they could relate to health or their religious beliefs.
The requirement for employees to be vaccinated would need to be evidenced in a specific risk assessment. Employers are already obliged to have in place a range of other COVID secure working arrangements and for many workplaces this may negate the requirement for all employees to be vaccinated. An employer needs to consider all reasonable alternatives such as regular testing of employees, a change in role or working from home. Flexibility is key.
It would be inadvisable for employers to impose a blanket policy of “no jab, no job”.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077 for all your legal needs.