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The question everyone is asking: Can we require our employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine?

The question everyone is asking: Can we require our employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine?

The roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine has officially begun and up to 4 million more vaccines are expected to be administered by the end of the month. Employers are now asking whether they can insist that employers are vaccinated before returning to the workplace. There are clear legal and moral issues that need to be considered.

So, what do you need to know:

 

Is it compulsory?

It is not expected that the Government will make the vaccination compulsory in the UK. Although the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 enables prevention, control and mitigation of the spread of infection and contamination, it also protects people from being forced to undertake medical treatment and vaccinations. However, under this Act, provisions cannot be made to require a person to undertake medical treatment. This would include having a vaccination.

 

Can an employee refuse?

A person may refuse the vaccine for a number of reasons such as; religion, beliefs including veganism (where the ingredients contain pork gelatine or where there has been testing on animals), disability, a detrimental impact to their mental health and other personal reasons. It should also be borne in mind that the Covid-19 vaccine is newly developed, and both the true effectiveness and long term side effects remain unclear. Public perception of the vaccine is mixed, and employers need to balance these concerns and continue to promote all methods of ensuring an employee’s health and wellbeing including social distancing, use of face masks and sanitising.

 

Can it be enforced?

Whilst implementing a requirement for staff to be vaccinated is not advisable, encouragement and recommendation would be an appropriate and balanced step to take. Making the vaccination mandatory amongst the workforce and proposing penalties if they decline, such as dismissal or being told not to come to work, may leave the company open to discrimination claims. It is therefore important to consider whether there are reasonable alternatives to minimising the spread of the infection. These areas should be fully explored via a risk assessment.

 

Risk Assessments

Employers will also need to review their return to work risk assessments and office configurations once vaccines are more widely available, and to factor in staff who may or may not have been vaccinated into their thinking and planning

Other Covid-secure measures and reasonable alternatives, such as regular testing or working from home, should also be considered in the assessment where employees do not consent to receiving the vaccination.

 

Communication

It is essential to communicate the company’s stance on the vaccine internally with your teams. Engaging the workforce early, providing clear information and enabling them to ask questions will help them understand the reason for the request. Listening to concerns will also assist in coming to an agreement or identifying a reasonable alternative.

 

We will continue to provide updates as the scheme is rolled out and the government provide further guidance. This summary is for guidance purposes only. Each individual matter should be considered on its own merit and advice taken where needed. Contact us with your queries.

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