Can My Employer Insist I Get The Vaccine?
With the vaccine rollout being one of the biggest successes of the pandemic it serves as light at the end of the tunnel. Should all go well and the government planning for all adults to be offered the vaccine by 31st July 2021, there is hope normal business practise may resume. But should all employees take the vaccine and should this be something business‘ enforce?
Currently there are no statutory provisions that could force individuals to become vaccinated. 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. If the UK government were to insist on compulsory vaccination, it could feasibly give rise to objections on the grounds of individual liberty and human rights.
If employers were to try to force their employees to be vaccinated, not only could it give rise to human rights concerns, but there could also be criminal implications. Forcing anyone to receive a vaccine injection under duress, under UK law, could constitute an unlawful injury. A vaccination requires an individual’s informed and voluntary consent.
Employers can encourage their staff to receive the vaccine but cannot make it compulsory. The key issue is whether it is ethical and legal for employers to request staff to be vaccinated before they return to the workplace, particularly when some will refuse for religious, philosophical or health care reasons.
If an employee’s refusal to be vaccinated is down to a disability/protected religious/philosophical belief, and results in disciplinary action from their employer, they may be able to issue a direct or indirect discrimination claim, and claim constructive unfair dismissal if they resign in protest. A better course of action for organisations would be to help employees to make informed decisions regarding their vaccination by sharing impartial, factual information.
Businesses could decide to take indirect measures to pressurise vaccination of their employees, such as refusing staff entry to certain parts of the workplace or certain roles, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been vaccinated. Similarly, employers may be tempted to issue disciplinary action if an employee repeatedly refuses to be vaccinated. Any such measures should be considered very carefully before being implemented.
The issue regarding the vaccine and workers return to work is extremely complex. People may refuse the vaccine for a variety of valid reasons and to navigate this alongside the safety of the workplace Is difficult. For the overall safety of the office, vaccines should be encouraged but it is not something we recommend as compulsory. Help your employees make informed decisions about how the vaccine can help in their work.