It has been confirmed that there will be further consultations regarding whether similar rules could be brought in for NHS workers and domiciliary carers, but there are no current proposals on the table.
The UK has been quick off the mark with rolling out vaccines, all adults should have been offered their first dose by 19th July. But regardless of availability, there are some people who are not comfortable with taking the vaccine for various reasons including those relating to religion, beliefs, or health.
But some employers are questioning whether they might be able to effectively force staff to have the vaccine, and not just those in caring professions. With the “no jab, no job” debate raging, the news that care home staff will now be required to have the jab might just push other employers to consider their options.
Indeed, Charlie Mullins, outspoken chairman of Pimlico Plumbers, has said that he intends to follow through on his promise made in January this year, of refusing employment to anyone who hasn’t had the vaccination, despite the tricky legal situation.
While it may be possible for employers to require covid vaccination in their employees, it is a difficult legal path to navigate. Employees with over 2 years service have rights, and those with protected characteristics could bring about discrimination claims.
Requiring new starters to be immunised would be an easier process for employers, but not without its problems. Again, if employees or candidates feel they are discriminated against as a result of religion or beliefs, they could make a discrimination claim.
With talk of a “vaccine passport” hot on everyone’s lips right now, the mandatory vaccination for employment debate is gaining traction. If a vaccine passport (likely in the form of a wristband, ID card or phone app) might be required in order to travel, enter a pub or restaurant or see a show, it would likely make sense to insist that any staff people might encounter in those situations are also vaccinated.
The hospitality industry in particular has been completely decimated, and it is likely that hospitality employers and employees alike will take any opportunity to avoid further lockdowns and resulting impact on income.
But other sectors might argue that it is unnecessary to force employees to have a vaccination, preferring instead to leave it up to individual choice.
Employers have a legal duty to do what they can to reduce workplace risks and insisting that all employees have a covid jab is one way of reducing risk. But mandating the jab is a legal nightmare which might be better postponed until the dust has settled and a precedence has been set.
In the meantime, employers can “strongly encourage” staff to have the vaccine. Providing support and reassurance for employees who have the vaccine is key. But employers should also ensure that they are being sensitive to the personal situations of those who are reluctant or unable to have it.
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