Despite the United Kingdom continuing with the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Government has not yet released any guidance on vaccination policies within the workplace.

Businesses ought to start considering the legal implications of insisting that their employees have the jab before returning to the office.

There are some crucial considerations surrounding this where the UK’s existing employment law can assist:

What if an employee rejects the vaccination?

It is suggested that one in five people may be unwilling to get the vaccination for various reasons. Whether it’s a lack of confidence in the safety of the vaccination or being opposed to them more generally, it is important to note that all vaccines available to the public are not always suitable for everyone.

Because of this, there are some factors that employers should consider before rolling out a vaccination policy:                       

  • There may be some individuals who are advised not to have the vaccine due to a medical condition or disability.                        
  • The vaccine is not currently recommended for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant.                                                   
  • Certain religious or moral objections to the vaccine could be protected under the protected characteristic of religious or philosophical belief. 

Due to these factors, vaccination policies may be indirectly discriminatory towards employees unless they are well justified. If there are any exceptions, these will need to be carved out, especially if an employer is looking to launch a policy on vaccinations.

How does this compare to Anti-vaxxers?

As above, an individual’s anti-vaccination position could amount to a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. 

Not all views will fall within this protection, but there is certainly scope for a wide range of views on vaccinations to qualify under this act.

For such claims to be successful, there needs to be both a detriment and a causative connection to the religion or belief. 

Can employers require employees to have the vaccine?

It could be tempting for employers to require workers to get vaccinated to feel at ease that the workplace is successfully protecting people.

As the Government has not legislated for the vaccine to be mandatory, it would be risky for employers to insist on vaccination, even in workplaces where there is close contact with vulnerable people such as, the social care sector. 

However, it has been advised that employers should support staff in getting the vaccine and detail the benefits of the vaccine to their employees. Although, employers cannot force anyone into physically having it.

Can employers require employees to disclose whether or not they have been vaccinated?

Requiring employees to disclose whether they have been vaccinated or not gives rise to both data protection and discrimination issues. 

It would have to be considered why employers would need evidence of vaccination and whether it is appropriate for the business. 

Can an employee be dismissed for refusing vaccination?

Failure to follow a reasonable instruction can lead to a fair dismissal; most likely ‘dismissal for some other substantial reason’ (SOSR). 

Whilst there is yet to be any case law, a tribunal is likely to have sympathy with an employee who did not want to get the Covid-19 vaccine and was fired from a job consequently.

At HR Caddy, our relationships are always based on honest and frank conversations so we really can get to the bottom of what is best for you and your business. For more help and advice on how the Covid-19 vaccine rollout may impact your business or employees, please contact us today.