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    The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Here, But What Do You Need To Know As Employers?

    Published on June 28th, 2021 | by Sophie West

    Covid-19 continues to spread with emerging variants, throughout the country. The good news is, the vaccine is proving effective so far in the control and impact of the virus on every day life.

    In this short blog, we will answer the most popular questions about the vaccine and what you can and can’t do as an employer as we start (fingers crossed!) seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.


    Q: Can I force my employees to have the vaccine?

    A: In short, no. Unless there is a thorough medical examinations clause within their contract (which is very rare) then employers cannot force the vaccine on their employees. It is a basic human right for people to refuse vaccinations which could be for a variety of reasons such as religious reasons, health reasons etc.


    Q: What if my employees work with vulnerable people?

    A: Employers have a duty of care to ensure a safe working environment under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Employees who work closely with vulnerable people (e.g. care workers), it could be argued that they require the vaccination in order to maintain a safe working environment. However, it isn’t as simple as that. The request for the vaccination needs to be deemed ‘reasonable’ in order to avoid any tribunal claims. An employer would need to weigh up the risk against their human rights, for example are there other ways to protect the vulnerable without the vaccination through the use of PPE and social distancing.


    Q: Can I encourage my employees to have to vaccine?

    A: Yes. Although you cannot force your employees to have the vaccine you can still encourage them to. You can do this by sharing informative, impartial, and factual information about the vaccine which will allow them to make an informed decision. Business benefits will include preserving and increasing productivity with healthy workers. Being seen as a caring organisation can also boost morale among employees. Reduced sickness absence rates help to reduce costs. It will help prevent the spread of infection between vulnerable customers/ service users/clients.


    Q: Can I dismiss someone who won’t take the vaccine?

    A: Risky. Very risky.  People will refuse to take the vaccine for a variety of reasons, for example, their race, religion, pregnancy or that they just don’t know enough about it. It is important to listen to your employees concerns and to not pressure them to do something they do not want to do. Although the vaccine may seem like an ‘easy fix’, there are other ways to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect others through the washing of hands, using the correct PPE and keeping a safe distance. A Covid-19 risk assessment is a good way to assess the risks of the workplace.


    Q: Can I force my employees to take a test?

    A: No, an employer cannot force an employee to take a test, however the employee has a legal duty to co-operate with their employer so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with.


    In summary, it is extremely risky to force employees to take the vaccine or to dismiss regardless of the work they do. It can potentially lead to various claims being brought against you such as discrimination, constructive dismissal, and unfair dismissal. Each issue would need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis to ensure you are staying safe as employers. If you require any HR support or advice during these difficult times, please feel free to give us a call on 01527 571611. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!


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