Employers considering pursuing a no jab, no job policy for new employees are “entering dangerous territory” according to a leading employment lawyer.
As the UK starts to re-open business premises, the question of employees carrying proof of vaccination has been raised, as well as some employers considering insisting on new staff having been inoculated.
But – according to Tina Chander, from leading Midlands law firm Wright Hassall – company bosses who are considering disciplining or dismissing any staff member who refuses to have a Covid vaccine are running the risk of having to fight costly unfair dismissal, constructive unfair dismissal and discrimination claims.
Chander is urging employers to tread carefully around the topic of vaccines when discussing a return to the workplace as it remains unclear under what grounds this request could be accepted as reasonable.
Chander, Head of Employment Law, said: “Put simply, I am not convinced that an employer can force a prospective or current employee to have a vaccine, because there is no legal requirement to have one.
“This is a sensitive subject and poses a delicate balance that employers have to strike.
“On the one hand employers have an obligation to ensure the health and wellbeing of their employees whilst at work, but employees also have a duty to co-operate with their employer and make sure they are mitigating any risk to their own health, and the health of their colleagues.
“If a company is faced with one staff member who refuses to have the vaccine then this should not cause issues for other staff members, because the work environment should already be COVID secure and provide sufficient space for employees to social distance - it should only become a serious problem for employers if COVID-secure measures aren’t being followed.
“It’s important for employers to note that there may be some employees that might not want the vaccine due to religious reasons or philosophical beliefs, or some employees may have medical issues which prevent them from having a vaccine.
“If an employee falls into one of these categories, then an employer could be leaving themselves open to allegations of discrimination if they pursue disciplinary proceedings.
“That said, while employers should not approach this with a blanket rule that every employee must have a vaccine, it is reasonable for them to encourage their employees to have a vaccine.
“For those staff members that do refuse or decline, employers should consult with their employee to find out their reasons and carry out an individual risk assessment before taking any action, and if they have not already done so, seek professional legal advice from a qualified employment lawyer to check the correct procedures are being followed.”