Could compulsory COVID vaccinations for employees repair the economy?

Charlie Mullins

This article is By Charlie Mullins OBE

The idea that an employer should be able to frog-march staff down to the local vaccine centre is a prospect that would have a lot of people screaming about Magna Carta and habeas corpus.

But we are currently operating under what is effectively a state of emergency.

There have been 50,000 deaths due to Covid-19 and the excess death rate in England and Wales is again nearing 1,000 a week, so shouldn’t we be considering a temporary suspension of some basic rights for the benefit of the entire population, the future of the economy and protect the elderly and vulnerable?

We have been desperately searching for the silver bullet that will save us from the scourge of Covid and now that we are in touching distance of having it, just like banning people from going out and forcing businesses to close, getting blanket coverage for the entire population isn’t too much of a leap?

But forcing people to have something put into their body like mental patients used to have no choice about electric shock treatment? Could that be okay in 2020?

As a company Pimlico has done 200,000 home visits since the beginning of the year without incident; and that’s because we have taken the safety of our customers and staff very seriously.

So, in some ways it feels like we would be negligent in not having all our engineers vaccinated, just like they are all police checked before being sent out to represent Pimlico.

Our customers demand the very best, and a vaccinated engineer would seem to meet that expectation.

Personally, I would encourage all our staff to have the vaccine as soon as it is possible for them to do so. I would also like the general population to have it too, as this would make the world even safer.

And on balance I would consider making it mandatory for Pimlico employees and contractors to be vaccinated, and the only legal way that might be possible is by altering employment contracts.

This is not a thing we are approaching lightly, but I have asked Pimlico’s head of HR, Kevin Crabtree, to speak to our employment law team at Mishcon de Reya to look into the issues surrounding vaccination; including the possibility of amending employment contracts, and where we stand on making a vaccination a condition of working at Pimlico for new hires.

Some may wonder why I’m talking about this so early since any vaccine is unlikely to be available for the general population for some time, but I would also urge the Government to look at industries in the same way as they are looking at individuals.
There are some, like health professionals, regardless of age or underlying conditions, that need to be vaccinated as a priority.

I don’t consider plumbers on a par with NHS workers, but we are an essential industry so probably should be a vaccination priority.

We’ve got used to tiered restrictions, so why not also have tiered vaccination levels for different sectors to get the economy back on track?

I also think that if the NHS vaccination roll-out might be many months away. So, as a business owner I might consider putting my staff through a private scheme if that became an option and other companies will probably do the same.