‘No Jab, No Job’ – the lawyers perspective

UK employers navigating their way through the pandemic and subsequent ‘pingdemic’ are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges of seeking to enforce double vaccination status for staff.

At present it is only compulsory for employees who work in care homes – with effect from 11 November 2021, but employers in other sectors are understandably keen to protect their workforce and keep their businesses moving.

Tim Copplestone, partner and employment law specialist with national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, flags that employers should tread carefully in regards to introducing vaccination policies.

“Employers in sectors outside of care homes potentially face the risk of Tribunal claims if they make vaccinations mandatory amongst their workforce,” said Tim. “Employees could potentially seek to resist such a move on several grounds ranging from human rights (including article 8: respect for your private and family life) to indirect discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic such as religion or belief, and pregnancy.

“For many employers, however, protecting their staff is key to the success of their business and so some have taken the approach of including new terms in any new employment contract offer or contract renewal – where the employee agrees to be vaccinated with the advised two jabs as a strict condition of their employment.

“We have seen this being introduced across a range of industries, especially where close contact is unavoidable, including professional football.”

Increasingly, US businesses are demanding that their staff are vaccinated, including household names like Walmart, Google and CNN. But in the UK businesses are constrained to more stringent employment laws.

Tim continued: “It is an emotive issue and some employers strongly wish to make vaccinations a mandatory condition, protecting the safety of their employees and third parties. There are also wider benefits such as the relaxation in the self-isolation rules if someone is pinged but they have received two doses of the vaccine.

“It is a delicate balance of employment statutory rights and employer health and safety obligations, but an employer should seek to introduce changes through consultation, and identify an employee’s personal concerns through discussions with them.”

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