No Jab, No Job: Can your employer insist that you have the Coronavirus vaccine?
This question is going to recur many times this spring and summer but as with many employment law issues, there’s no straightforward answer!
Most peoples’ contracts of employment are silent on the issue of whether employees must have the coronavirus vaccine because they were of course written before the pandemic occurred. And the general view on this is that it’s unlikely employers can force existing staff to have the vaccine.
However, some firms have come out and said that they will require all new starters to have the vaccine and unless new staff are prepared to accept inoculation, they won’t be given the job. This is an increasingly common stance in the care industry, where employers are arguing it’s a necessity to keep patients and care home residents safe. However sensible it may seem, the legal view on whether this is permissible is mixed at the moment and it may be that the issue has to go through the courts before there’s a definitive answer.
It is possible that if an employer has a legitimate reason for requiring staff to be vaccinated (the care industry is a good example where this might be the case) and staff have no good reason for refusing the vaccination, employers could consider disciplinary action. Whether or not a fair dismissal could then follow will of course depend on the specific circumstances but again the courts are likely to have to decide the key principles.
Individual circumstances will play a major part in assessing whether an employer can insist on vaccination as a condition of employment. For example, if someone has an illness which constitutes a disability and has been advised not to have a vaccination on medical grounds, it would almost certainly be a discriminatory act for an employer to refuse that person employment on the grounds that he or she cannot have a vaccination. Some have suggested that the requirement could discriminate against younger people, who in most cases will have to wait longer to get a vaccination.
If your employer, or prospective employer, is adopting a ’no jab, no job’ policy and you’re concerned about how this might affect you, contact our 24 hour Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1) as soon as possible. This is clearly a complex area and we’ll be able to help and advise you on your own specific circumstances.