Employers: Covid Vaccination Policy?31 Mar 2021
We have received enquiries recently as to whether employers are entitled to insist that employees receive the Covid vaccination.
We are not aware of any UK cases that have been decided on this point so far but there has been a reported 2021 decision in which the Employment Tribunal found that an employee driver had not been unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct where, contrary to his employer’s handbook requirements stipulating that drivers must comply with instructions regarding PPE at client sites, he had refused to comply with an instruction to wear a face mask inside his cab at one of his employer’s client’s sites and refused to show remorse afterwards for not doing so. The Employment Tribunal was of the view that the employer was entitled to take into account the importance to its business of maintaining good relationships with its clients. See Kubilius -v- Kent Foods Ltd  1WLUK 477.
Presently, there is no legislation or legal requirement in force for vaccinations to become mandatory but there has been speculation in the Press that the Government might be considering whether to impose mandatory vaccinations for those working in professions that look after the most vulnerable in society such as those who work in care homes for the elderly.
In the absence of any legal requirement for individuals to be vaccinated, employees should not be forced to have a Covid vaccination without consent
Our view is that employers should consider treading carefully in this area and they should be aware that potentially they may face claims for constructive dismissal, unfair dismissal or discrimination if they attempt to impose a blanket policy that all employees must be vaccinated against Covid or they impose restrictions on those who have not had vaccinations from entering the workplace or carrying out duties. There may be data protection and human rights issues that are raised by this as well.
Here are some issues that employers should consider when potentially looking to implement policies relating to Covid vaccinations:
- carrying out risk assessments in respect of particular roles/jobs bearing in mind changing circumstances relating to the pandemic;
- consultation with workplace and health and safety representatives;
- offering advice and information to staff about the advantages and disadvantages of Covid vaccinations in order to assist them to make informed decisions;
- supporting staff to attend vaccinations by paying for time off to attend vaccination appointments;
- considering individual circumstances where vaccination may not be suitable for example, for pregnant women or those suffering from severe allergies or suppressed immune systems;
- considering alternatives to vaccination such as: regular testing, changes to the workplace environment to implement appropriate health and safety measures and possible redeployment.
We envisage that inevitably employment cases will arise relating to actions that employers may take in implementing Covid vaccination policies and that any decisions of the Tribunals will likely be very fact specific.
Here is a useful link to the current ACAS guidance for employers and employees:
If you require any specific advice or assistance about any of the issues referred to in this blog, or any other employment issues, please contact Yvonne Addy by telephone on 0207 486 5131 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or make an online enquiry here.
This blog was prepared on 29 March 2021. It is not intended to be advice and should not be relied upon as such.