In the second article from our mini-series, Liz Pollock continues to offer guidance and practical tips for employers as staff return to the workplace following the lifting of restrictions this Monday 19 July.
In Monday’s article we considered the options available to employers in terms of how their staff might return to the office, along with expected health and safety requirements now that the legal restrictions pertaining to Covid 19 have been lifted. However, with Covid cases rising it’s clear that many employees may feel anxious about returning to an environment where they will be in close proximity to colleagues. The vaccination programme has been effective at reducing deaths, however what if an employee has chosen not to be vaccinated and some younger team members are still awaiting vaccinations, is it fair to increase their risk of exposure?
Vaccination – no jab, no job?
It is broadly accepted that vaccinations have played an important role in the removal of national restrictions. Therefore, if you are opening up a workplace, can you insist that employees are vaccinated?
Pimlico Plumbers and Publisher Bloomsbury have publicly stated their intention to mandate vaccines. However, the key legal problems with this are the unfair dismissal risks associated with dismissing existing employees who refuse to be vaccinated and who have over two years’ service; is it a fair reason to dismiss? The government is the largest employer in health and care settings and it has not yet made vaccination compulsory, so employers would need a strong reason for taking a different stance in their organisation.
There is also the potential for discrimination claims from employees with protected characteristics if they are dismissed for refusing to be vaccinated. For example, not all young employees have been vaccinated and the vaccine may not be recommended for some pregnant and some disabled employees.
However, there is an exception in relation to care home. From October, anyone working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England must have two vaccine doses unless they have a medical exemption.
Employers may want to join other leading employers, like Asda, IKEA and Santander, in doing their best to encourage staff to be vaccinated when eligible. Many companies have also committed to giving staff paid time off work to receive and recover from their Covid jabs.
Published on 21 July 2021