No Jab – No Job
Can Organisations make Covid Vaccinations Mandatory?
This is likely to be a question that most businesses have considered over recent months. Many of you will have seen on the news that from Autumn 2021, it will be mandatory for care home staff to have had both doses of the Covid vaccine unless they are exempt. A consultation is currently in place to determine if this will extend to NHS staff.
How will this affect other businesses?
For other industries and organisations, requiring staff to be “double-jabbed” could amount to a criminal offence. The equalities watchdog has warned that such policies are likely to be both discriminatory and disproportionate. A statement from the CIPD warns that “mandatory vaccination is an intrusion on an employee’s body and may discriminate on the basis of disability, or religious or philosophical, belief………enforced vaccination would be a criminal offence against the person and an unlawful injury leading to claims such as assault and battery”.
The Transport Secretary Gavin Shapps suggests it is a “good idea” for people to be vaccinated and that some companies “will require it”, but said it will not be required by legislation.
Can organisations check vaccination status?
This is a question that we are asked frequently, and organisations do seem to be bringing in policies of checking, which are being commonly reported in the media. In the US, large firms including Google, Netflix and Facebook have announced double-jabbed policies in anticipation of their return to work.
One high profile case in the UK was that of Pimlico Plumbers who launched a “no jab, no job recruitment” policy, requiring any applicants to prove vaccination status.
Currently, vaccination status forms an employee’s medical data – and without explicit need to obtain this, checking is very likely to breach these regulations.
In addition, it is worth considering what benefit will be gained by checking. In terms of health and safety assessments, your measures (social distancing, handwashing etc) should be in place regardless of vaccination status. In terms of risk, it is thought that even double vaccinated people can catch, and spread, the virus.
Are there benefits to being double jabbed?
From August 16th it is proposed that individuals who are double vaccinated will not need to isolate should they be a contact of a positive person. The need to isolate with symptoms is still in place. In addition, many double jabbed individuals will not need to isolate following overseas travel. As an organisation, this may inadvertently mean that you will have lower isolation-related absences from a double jabbed workforce, than not.
What effect will the mandatory care home vaccine have on the workforce?
Current figures estimate that around 40,000 care home staff across the country risk losing their jobs due to their vaccination status. Current estimates suggest this could cost the industry £100m to replace these workers. A full impact assessment is expected to be written and published by the government shortly.
Will other areas require mandatory vaccination?
The government has announced that from the end of September, venues including nightclubs will require double vaccination in order to be allowed entry. It is not yet confirmed whether this will also extend to staff in those venues (door staff, security, bar staff etc – or if this will be for customers only). Given the short timescale, it is widely anticipated that this will only be a customer requirement at this stage.
What are the risks of enforcing mandatory vaccination?
The biggest risk for an organisation is that such a policy leads to tribunal claims. Without legislative backing, companies need to consider the possible consequences of introducing such requirements. There will be individuals who can’t have the vaccine, whether for medical reasons, beliefs (or potentially age related reasons as groups have been called by age).
All employers can encourage staff to have the vaccination and support this through things like paid time off for the appointment, and highlighting the benefits of being vaccinated.
It is expected that there will be an increase in tribunal claims relating to this area. We will keep you with any updates.
In the meantime, please contact us if you need any information regarding this, or any other area of HR.