No jab, no job
Is it fair to demand all employees have both Covid vaccinations? Pimlico Plumbers are reported to be advertising for new recruits and are including a no jab, no job policy in their adverts. I’m sure up and down the country there will be other examples of employer’s considering similar requirements.
Whilst there are a number of employment law issues here, a key issue to consider is access to the vaccines. All adults can now book their vaccinations, but it will still be the autumn before everyone has been given their second dose. Is it therefore fair to those people looking for work now to deny them the opportunity to work due to the availability of appointments, especially given many of them may be in younger age groups and therefore have the protection of age discrimination legislation.
Secondly, what about people who have been advised not to get vaccinated for medical reasons, or those who hold certain religious or ethical beliefs? And then there is the moral debate, should employers dictate what their employees can or can’t do?
Employers can’t force employees to be vaccinated. They can consider introducing a contractual requirement for existing employees to be vaccinated, but if this is a change to employment terms and conditions employees would need to agree to this change. If they don’t, employees would be entitled to resign and make a claim for constructive dismissal.
Assuming an employment contract has been updated and the employee has agreed to the new terms, they could be prevented from working if their contract says they must be vaccinated and employers could consider disciplinary action if the employee then refuses to be vaccinated when it is offered to them.
Employers do not have to give staff paid leave to attend medical appointments however if it is a requirement of the employment contract then it is sensible to facilitate this so that employees don’t lose out financially.
New employees do not have the same level of protection as existing workers and therefore employers can change contractual terms and ask that all new starters have been vaccinated. However once again watch out for discrimination claims where the employee does not need two years length of service to bring a claim.
Whilst a no jab, no job policy might be easier to enforce for new employees it may end up causing longer-term resentment in the workplace. People feel very strongly about issues around their human rights and freedoms and the right to choose what goes into their body and when. Many people are still concerned that there isn’t enough information to enable them to make an informed decision and it may be wrong not to consider and discuss those views.
Employers are advised to discuss with staff their requirement for them to be fully vaccinated before making any formal contractual changes. What other safeguards can be put in place to reduce risk. After all vaccination does not necessarily mean you cannot catch or spread the virus.