Pimlico Plumbers recently announced a change to employment contracts to include a requirement for staff to have a Covid-19 vaccine. Many employers will be considering if vaccination should be mandatory in the workplace. What are the associated legal risks and how should you manage them?
The government has not made the vaccine mandatory. Whilst most employers are likely to support their staff in getting the vaccination, it would be risky for employers to insist on vaccination in the majority of cases. By exception, it may be necessary to make vaccination mandatory where it is necessary for someone to do their job, such as where they are required to travel overseas for example.
If an employer believes an employee’s reason for refusing the vaccine is unreasonable, it could result in disciplinary action in some cases if it is workplace policy to be vaccinated or necessary for someone to do their job. In certain sectors such as care homes, it may be viewed as reasonable for an employer to request that all staff be vaccinated. In cases where employees do not want the vaccine, consideration should be given to alternatives such as redeployment and working from home prior to dismissal. Provided the employer has carried out a careful weighing up of the concerns of the employee against the needs of the business, its customers and employees, it may be possible to successfully defend a dismissal in these circumstances.
The vaccination may not be suitable for all. An employee may be unable to get the vaccine because of a health condition which could give rise to arguments of disability discrimination. There are also potential arguments of age discrimination, where the vaccine may not be suitable or available for those of a certain age. Certain religious or moral beliefs could be protected in relation to particular faith groups or vegan and vegetarian employees owing to the animal content of the vaccine. Individual scenarios will require a careful investigation of the facts and the reasons for refusing the vaccine to guard against any claims of discrimination. Any requirement for the vaccine would therefore need to include exceptions.
Introducing a contractual requirement requiring employees to have the vaccine would amount to a change in terms and conditions. Many employees are likely to object to such a requirement. Without agreement, an employer would be faced with unilateral imposition of change or terminating the contract and offering re-engagement on new terms. There are risks attached to both scenarios including potential dismissal and discrimination issues. Introducing such a requirement for new employees avoids some potential legal risks, but it does not secure widespread protection within the workforce.
Employers could introduce a Covid-19 policy requiring that all employees who can be immunised are immunised. Employers have an implied duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of their employees and take reasonable steps to provide a safe workplace and a safe system of work. It is therefore advisable for employers to consider how to best achieve voluntary vaccination within their workforces. This is likely to include informing staff about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccinations.
If an employer processes any personal data as a result of a requirement for its staff to be vaccinated, then data protection considerations apply. Information about whether employees have been vaccinated is medical data and should be handled in accordance with Data Protection Act 2018.
TLT advises green tech innovator Albotherm on seed investmentRead more
TLT ranked second in global clean energy M&A league tableRead more
TLT advises Good Energy on investment in Zap-MapRead more
What will green cities look like?Read more
TLT supports Ecotricity with Electric Highway partnershipRead more
TLT shortlisted for NI Dealmakers AwardRead more
TLT named top 10 adviser in renewables rankingsRead more
TLT grows clean energy offering with EV Network GC hireRead more
TLT advises Blackfinch on acquisition of two wind energy sitesRead more
Watch our video series for information on the legal issues that are affecting the real estate sector. Each...Read more
Helping you navigate your business through the risks and opportunities that Brexit will bring.Read more
The way people shop is constantly evolving, from the growth of online and the changing use of stores...Read more
The widespread disruption and closure of businesses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent national and local lockdowns has brought into sharp focus the question of available insurance cover for losses under...Read more
The pandemic has had a deep and long-lasting effect on the leisure, food & drink sector, forcing operators to embrace new ways of attracting and servicing customers.Read more
The pandemic has forced the majority of the workforce into a world of remote working. As a result, our cities are evolving.Read more
There's a growing demand for retailers to do more to attract the Purple Pound – the collective spending power of disabled shoppers, estimated to be worth around £274bn. We look at the opportunities, the legal issues and...Read more
Green finance is gaining speed, driven by global climate change pressures and the recognition of the vital role which sustainability plays in a resilient financial services sector.Read more
Keep on top of the employment law issues that matter most to you and your business with our new podcast.Read more
We provide strategic and business as usual advice covering all aspects of employment law, as well as dealing with disputes, mediations, complex tribunal claims.Read more
We work alongside our clients to ensure compliance with the legal framework, sharing our experiences and combined knowledge to ensure they avoid the pitfalls.Read more
We provide support on tribunal claims for clients across a number of sectors, including retail, leisure, social housing, social care, and financial services.Read more
Our team has experience in all areas of restructuring, whether involving redundancies and reduction in staffing levels, or a change in benefits and terms and conditions.Read more
We provide advice and support to help employers manage their relationships with trade unions, staff associations and other representative bodies.Read more