Vaccines : Employer Obligations And Employee Rights

The COVID-19 programme of vaccinations has stormed ahead, with millions of elderly and vulnerable people across the country receiving at least their first dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine ...

But now, there is a nationwide conversation amongst both employers and employees about what happens if someone refuses to receive a vaccine or can't be jabbed for medical reasons. This has become a bit of a dilemma.

As the vaccination programme closes in on everyone over 50 and those who may be younger, but with medical conditions, employers are beginning to assess their responsibilities with regard to the health of their employees, customers and clients.

"What if an employee refuses a vaccine?"

Employment law specialists say that employers cannot insist that all employees are vaccinated unless there are exceptional circumstances. It may be appropriate for social care providers to insist on vaccinations as they could be working with at-risk people, but a call centre? A manufacturing plant? A distribution warehouse?

Different types of business may be open to tribunals if they refuse to allow employees to return to work without a vaccine. Lockdown has proven that most office-based companies can function effectively with people working from home. A production line can be spaced out, a warehouse is normally huge, so there may not be an issue with employees being in close proximity as long as they continue to socially distance.

The best advice I've heard right now is that employers should encourage and not compel employees to have a vaccination. For those who won't or can't have a vaccine, then PPE, social distancing and working from home are all options.

"Remember, this is about protecting both themselves and their colleagues!"

It's advisable that employers put together a campaign to simply encourage employees who are reluctant to vaccinate to change their mind and take further steps to protect the health of those who cannot receive a vaccination ... food manufacturing, cleaning, public transport or essential retail are all good examples of businesses that really need to think about how to protect both their employees and the general public.

Remember, do this in consultation with your employees rather than just imposing it on them. Factor in visitors, consultants and contractors who may be on and off your premises too. And finally, how should you deal with employees visiting the homes of individuals, especially vulnerable people?

It is estimated that it will be at least September 2021 before everyone in the UK has been vaccinated, so be pragmatic, but start thinking about this now as a refusal to be vaccinated is only grounds for dismissal in very exceptional circumstances.

If you feel inspired to find out more about anything I've said here, do call me on 01908 774320 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch as soon as I can.