Can you force employees to have the Covid Vaccine?
Posted on 11th June 2021 at 18:37
The Covid Vaccine rollout is now in full force and a huge percentage of the population have now had 2 doses. To check the daily vaccination rates click here
Not everyone is of course happy to have the vaccine - so what happens if your staff refuse to be vaccinated against Covid 19? How can you deal with this situation and what steps should you be taking? Here are some thoughts on this very emotive topic.
Can you insist staff have the Covid Vaccine?
At present, there are no statutory provisions that employers can force individuals to become vaccinated. Furthermore, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 specifically states that members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations.
The surrounding factor is that if the government did try and legislate this and make vaccination compulsory, it might give rise to objections on individual liberty and human rights.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects people from being interfered with physically or psychologically and includes mandatory vaccinations. Forcing staff to be vaccinated could be a human rights issue, as, under UK law, it could constitute unlawful injury, which could be a criminal act. In addition, an individual can only be vaccinated with their informed and voluntary consent.
It is also worth mentioning the Equality Act 2010 as it may also be that someone’s anti-vaccination position could amount to a protected philosophical belief. For example, If a staunch anti-vaxxer could establish that their belief was genuinely held, insisting they are vaccinated could result in them winning an employment tribunal.
The other area you need to consider is that the vaccine contains pig gelatine. This is an issue for some religious groups and also vegans. These groups also protected under the Equality Act.
What measures should your business take?
Depending on your business, you might need to consider what measures you need to take to keep other staff and clients safe. For example, health care workers who work with the clinically vulnerable. In this case, requiring employees to be vaccinated is reasonable because of the nature of their work. If they refuse, then under these grounds, it could warrant disciplinary procedures. Ensure you have also explored other ways in which someone refusing to be vaccinated could carry out their duties—perhaps being moved to different duties or applying more stringent social distancing measures and PPE.
But be careful before you implement disciplinary action If an employee refuses vaccination. Consider their reasons carefully. You do not want a discrimination case brought against you or unfair dismissal.
At the moment, this is all new territory, and both employers and staff are working their way around what is a difficult situation.
There is no clear cut easy to apply laws as yet, so we advise assessing on a case-by-case basis. If your staff have clear grounds to refuse, then you will have to consider their views. However, to avoid any tribunal cases, do talk to us first, and we can help and advise you.
ACAS have also added some information to their website- click here
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