Freedom Day has come and gone without fanfare but with Covid cases rising, it’s clear that many employees may feel anxious about returning to the workplace where they will be in close proximity to colleagues.
The vaccination programme has been effective at reducing deaths however, what if a colleague has chosen not to be vaccinated and you or some younger team members are still awaiting vaccinations, is it fair to increase everyone else’s risk of exposure?
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, or working alongside colleagues, can you insist that everyone is 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, if you are an employee with protected characteristics it would be extremely difficult to be dismissed for refusing to be vaccinated. For example, not all young employees have been vaccinated and it may not be recommended for some pregnant and some disabled employees.
However, there is an exception in relation to care homes. 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.
There is no easy solution to this puzzle and currently if a team member does not want to be vaccinated, they don’t have to be. 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 and many companies have also committed to giving staff paid time off work to receive and recover from their Covid jabs.
If you do require any advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Raworths Employment Team on 01423 566666.