“No Jab, No Job” – Can My Employer Make Me Get A Covid-19 Vaccine?

There have been more than 118 million Covid-19 vaccinations in the UK since the vaccine programme was first launched by the Government in December 2020. However, there is still a small percentage of the UK population that has chosen to not receive a vaccine – around one in ten people (aged 12 or over) have not had a single jab.

In recent months, the Government announced (subject to Parliamentary approval) that all frontline health and social care workers in England will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 1 April 2022. This followed a similar measure for care home workers, where all employees working in adult care homes in England were required to be fully vaccinated by 11 November 2021.

The introduction of these measures has left many workers in other sectors wondering whether they will also be required to be fully vaccinated in order to continue in their roles. Below, we have provided some advice on mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.

Can my employer make me get a Covid-19 vaccine?

An employer cannot make one of their employees receive a Covid-19 vaccine if they do not wish to. However, as a result of the Government’s vaccine mandates, many businesses may be contemplating introducing measures – via clauses in contracts of employment or amending existing contracts – that require their workforce to be fully vaccinated. An employers’ reasons for introducing such measures could relate to protecting vulnerable staff members, visitors, or customers, or in an attempt to limit absences due to workers catching Covid-19 or being required to self-isolate.

Should an employer introduce measures that require workers to be fully vaccinated and an employee still refuses, depending on the circumstances, it could result in the employee being redeployed to a different role or they could be dismissed. How an employer handles such situations is something they need to give much consideration to before introducing a vaccination policy.

If a business introduces a vaccine mandate for their workforce but an employee still refuses to be vaccinated based on the fact that they have a disability or is as a result of a religious or philosophical belief, and the worker is then redeployed or dismissed, it could potentially face a direct or indirect discrimination claim from their worker. For further information on this subject, click here.

At Nelsons, throughout the vaccination programme, we have advised employers to encourage their employees to get vaccinated by ensuring staff have access to reliable information about the vaccine, so they’re able to make an informed choice, and even to allow paid time off for vaccination appointments.

Can compulsory Covid-19 vaccine policies be justified?

All businesses have a legal duty to provide their employees with a safe working environment. As a result, based upon the sector that the business operates in, it could be justified for introducing mandatory vaccination provisions based on health and safety grounds. Although employers would have to be able to demonstrate this (e.g. the results of a risk assessment). It would also have to show that the reduction in the risk of rolling out compulsory vaccination measures will justify such interference with an employees’ basic rights.

If an employer is insisting that their workforce is vaccinated but some workers are still unsure, the staff members should flag and discuss their concerns with their employer and see what can be agreed upon.

Do I need to let my employer know if I am getting a Covid-19 vaccine?

Unless your employer has a policy requiring you to notify them of vaccinations or procedures, then no. Although, if you need time off to attend appointments for vaccinations, you should arrange this in the normal way according to your company’s code of practice.

I am looking for work, will I have to tell prospective employers whether or not I have been vaccinated?

There is a general prohibition on employers asking prospective employees health-related questions, which in this case would include their vaccination records. Although, there are limited exceptions to this that could apply to sectors and job roles where there is a particular health and safety reason, meaning the employer needs to know whether you’ve been vaccinated or not.

This is lawful as long as the employer does not discriminate against any disabled candidates who are unable to have the vaccine as a result of their disability.

How Nelsons can help

Laura Kearsley is a Partner in our expert Employment Law team.

For further information on the subjects discussed in this article or any related topics, please contact Laura or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.

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