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No jab, no job?

Employers and employees are keen to see a return to normality now the roadmap out of lockdown has been announced by the government, but one question many employers are asking is how should they deal with the issue of vaccination and those employees and workers who decline having a vaccination against Covid 19?

Some businesses in the care sector have already said that they will have a ‘no jab, no job’ contract for new employees but this risks discriminating against those who have been advised not to have the vaccine such as pregnant women.

Where a job puts employees into regular contact with people who may have or be at risk from the virus, such as a nurse or care worker then there might be more of a reason to ask an employee to be vaccinated. It will however be difficult for employers to monitor as the government has ruled out introducing domestic vaccine passports. There are also concerns that as well as discrimination, some people could feel coerced into getting a vaccine.

At the moment any employer who is considering this area should consult a solicitor as this is such a grey area of employment law. Whilst it might be possible to argue that it is reasonable to ask new staff to be vaccinated this raises a number of other issues and could leave them open to a legal challenge. This could be on discrimination grounds if a vaccination is refused because of religious belief, pregnancy or a health condition that constitutes a disability.

Perhaps the most sensible option is for employers to engage with their employees and provide information and support to them to enable them to be vaccinated. This could be as simple as making sure they can take paid leave to attend a vaccination appointment or to consult their doctor about their suitability to be vaccinated.

Whilst we are lucky that the UK has so far achieved a high level of uptake of the vaccination amongst those who have been offered it, the next few weeks will be a critical time for many people deciding whether to be vaccinated or not.

Amanda Finn is a Partner at Gullands Solicitors and can be contacted at T: 01622 689700