The COVID-19 Vaccine is here, but what do you need to know as employers?
Covid-19 continues to spread quickly throughout the country, which has resulted in national lockdowns, tiered restrictions and life being put on hold. The good news is, there is a now a Covid-19 vaccine which is the light at the end of the tunnel. 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.
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 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.
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.
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!