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Date posted: 27th September 2021
At the time of writing, 44.3 million people in the UK are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19 following medical and government advice. It has been stated that the UK’s vaccination policy is the fastest, most effective and clearest back to normality following the pandemic.
However, those who are uncomfortable with the process and are of the view that they would rather not have the jabs are well within their rights to make that decision.
So where do companies stand? Are they allowed to demand that all employees are vaccinated or are they completely helpless to the decision of each employee and should adjust their practices accordingly? We’re going to breakdown all of the key information below to aid your decision making.
When it comes to enforcing anything medical at all, particularly vaccinations, employers need to closely consider the legal implications and possible unfair dismissal claims that they could face, from human rights violation to indirect discrimination under the Equality Act.
It is essential that employers do their research and apply real world context to their decision making. If you are suggesting that all employees need to be vaccinated to protect one another, there are still many grey areas that could suggest there is no current evidence that the vaccine reduces transmission, instead it reduces the severity of the symptoms to those who have been vaccinated should they contract the virus.
It’s essential to consider vaccinations in the context of the evidence attached to them. Currently it could be argued that there is no evidence the vaccines reduce transmission, merely that those vaccinated are unlikely to experience the most severe symptoms.
An employee could feasibly argue that they’re not putting their colleagues at risk by refusing to receive the jab, only themselves if they contract Covid. But what specific laws protect employees if they refuse a vaccine?
As it stands, there are a few specific laws that employees can cite should they refuse a vaccination:
Human Rights Act 1998
There is an argument that mandatory vaccines could be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Article 8 provides the right to privacy, and mandatory vaccinations could be considered an unnecessary invasion of this privacy as there are other, less invasive ways to minimise the risk of transmission in the workplace, such as social distancing and wearing a mask.
Employees who reject vaccination because of their religion could rely on Article 9, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Article 14 can also be relied upon as it states that those who do, should be able to reject the vaccine without facing discrimination.
It’s worth noting the UK remains signed up to the ECHR, and the Human Rights Act 1998 forms part of domestic legislation, despite Brexit, so these laws are still applicable.
Equality Act 2010
There are also several ways of implementing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy which could amount to indirect discrimination in relation to protected characteristics, including possibly age, disability, pregnancy, or religion.
Employers could face claims of age discrimination if they ask employees who have not yet had both doses of the vaccine. If someone has long Covid, which could be classed as a disability under section 6 of the Equality Act, they have been advised not to have the vaccine.
On 16 April 2021 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice was updated to confirm pregnant women should be offered the vaccine; however, it will then be an individual choice.
Making vaccinations mandatory for anyone with protected characteristics could open employers up to indirect discrimination suits.
Kingswood Group Suggestion
With advice, laws and mandates being changed and amended as frequently as they are, so too will advice from HR professionals around best practices for your business. Each business is completely unique in the sense that you know what working process works best for you and you also know your team better than anyone else might.
A key recommendation would be to communicate clearly and regularly with your team. Find out what they are comfortable with, what their thought process is around vaccines and safe working environments.
The ‘no jab, no job’ policy will be something that certain businesses will have to consider actively whilst other businesses may not need to think about at all. At this stage, it is important you take the steps to ensure that your business is completely compliant with all currently advised Covid-19 safety procedures (from mask wearing if appropriate, to hand sanitizer stations and any other feature that your team may find helpful).
Nevertheless, if the ‘no jab no job’ policy is something that you are considering for your business, we suggest that you contact Kingswood Group HR today for a free consultation so that our experts can learn about your unique circumstances and tailor the best possible legal and ethical advice to your business to help you back on your way in a post-pandemic world. Discover more, here: https://kingswoodgroup.org/contact/
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