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Can Employers Demand Vaccination Against COVID-19

There have been more than 136 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered in the UK since the vaccine programme was first launched in December 2020. However, there is still a small percentage of the population that has chosen not to receive the vaccine. It’s estimated that around 10% of the population aged over 12 hasn’t had a single dose of the vaccine.

With the Government having mandated that all health and social care providers in England ensure workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (unless exempt), you might be wondering whether your employer will be able to do the same. Here is some advice on mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations from Swan Craig Solicitors.

Can my employer make me get vaccinated?

As it stands, employers are allowed to encourage uptake of the vaccine and may be able to “punish” employees who refuse it (e.g. with dismissal or redeployment) if they can prove it is reasonable to do so, but they cannot actually make their employees get vaccinated.

The Government’s vaccine mandates might inspire businesses to introduce measures – via clauses in new contracts of employment and amendments to existing contracts – that require their workers to be fully vaccinated.

Their reasoning for mandating vaccination may be related to protecting vulnerable staff members, visitors to the workplace, or customers, as employers do have a legal obligation to take reasonable precautions to reduce workplace risks under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

If your employer carries out a risk assessment and can subsequently prove that being fully vaccinated is the most reasonable way of mitigating the risk of coronavirus in their workplace, then they can technically mandate being vaccinated as a health and safety requirement.

Alternatively, they may hope to limit sickness and absence among their workforce due to being ill with coronavirus or being required to self-isolate.

I’m an employer. What do I need to consider before introducing a vaccination policy?

Depending on the circumstances, you may have to redeploy or dismiss an employee if they refuse to comply with your vaccination policy. You need to think about how you handle such situations, as you will need to be able to prove it was a reasonable course of action in the event of a dispute or claim.

You also need to consider the implications of the policy on all employees. For instance, you will need to plan for a situation where someone refuses vaccination because of a disability or a religious/philosophical belief. Handle it incorrectly and you may face a discrimination claim from the employee in question.

You should also consider alternatives to a vaccination policy. Employers are free to encourage vaccination in whatever way they see fit. You could ensure your employees have access to reliable, accurate information about the vaccine. Making sure they’re properly informed still allows them freedom of choice but may indirectly increase their willingness to get vaccinated.

Alternatively, you could introduce incentives such as paid time off to attend vaccination appointments or organise for colleagues to attend walk-in vaccination centres together during the working day.

If your rights have been violated at work, or if you’re planning to introduce a potentially controversial policy, you’ll need a trusted legal professional on your side. Swan Craig Solicitors can advise you on your rights and responsibilities and help you get the best outcome in any dispute. For more information, contact us today.

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