“Want a job? Get a jab!” Can you force your employees to get vaccinated?

Human Resources 9th December 2021

In spite of all the publicity, all the scientific evidence, there’s still a minority of the British workforce rejecting the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Approximately 1 in 10 of those over the age of 12 have not been jabbed.

In early November 2021, it became law that all those working in adult care homes should be vaccinated against COVID-19. More recently, the Government declared that from April 1st 2022, the same would apply to all frontline health and social care workers in England.

So – how do things stand in your organisation? Do you want to introduce the same measures into your workplace? And if you do want to, is it legal? Bosses and workers alike throughout the UK are mulling over their rights and obligations.

Can you legally force your employees to get vaccinated?
As the law currently stands, no employer can force one of their employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine if it’s against their wishes. However, in the light of the Government’s recent declarations regarding care home workers and frontline healthcare workers, you may be considering taking this step – perhaps by amending clauses in contracts, either existing or new. You might see this as an entirely reasonable step – fulfilling a duty of care by protecting vulnerable members of your workforce or visitors to your premises. You might also see this as a way to restrict absences due to workers catching Covid-19 or being required to self-isolate.

Your first step should certainly be to encourage your employees to get vaccinated by making sure they have access to reliable, clear information. They need to feel they can make a considered, informed choice. You could also allow paid time off for vaccination appointments.

What if you were to introduce compulsory vaccinations into your workforce and an employee refuses to comply? Well, this is where things can get tricky. Certainly, you could consider redeploying them to a different role, perhaps one where there’s negligible physical contact with other employees. Or, you could go for dismissal. Whatever route you choose, you need to tread carefully.

Supposing your employee claims that their refusal to be vaccinated is due to a disability or is a consequence of a religious or philosophical belief? If you then pursue the option of redeployment or dismissal, you could find yourself facing a direct or indirect discrimination claim.

Is there any justification for compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations?
Certainly, you are legally obliged to provide your employees with a safe working environment. This could be a starting point for justifying compulsory vaccinations. In this case, however, you would need to demonstrate this by showing that you had carried out a relevant risk assessment.

Can I ask prospective employees for proof of vaccination?
Usually, employers are not allowed by law to ask prospective employees health-related questions. This includes vaccinations. However, there are certain exceptions to this regulation, such as in sectors, such as the care sector, where for health and safety reasons, you’re entitled to ask about a candidate’s COVID-19 vaccination record.

Remember – under no circumstances should you discriminate against any disabled candidates who are unable to have the vaccine as a result of their disability.

Specialist HR advice
It’s right that you should consider all angles of compulsory vaccinations in your workplace – from duty of care towards employees who might be vulnerable to the coronavirus to the rights of those who choose to reject the opportunity to become vaccinated.
For guidance on the best approach towards COVID-19 vaccinations in your workplace, talk to us.
For straight-talking HR advice – 01604 763494
Or email – info@GravitasHR.co.uk

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