Can my business legally have a 'no jab no job' policy?
…is a question commonly asked by employers right now, but how can the subject be approached without breaching employee or worker rights?
The rapid rollout of vaccinations and the growing shift away from full time home and remote working, has led to an increased focus on whether employers can implement a ‘no jab no job’ policy as part of their toolkit for returning to the workplace, aimed at creating a COVID-19 secure environment.
The government stance on mandatory vaccinations
The only sector in which the jab will currently be mandatory is in regulated care homes, with the requirement coming into effect on 11th November, where Covid-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all care home workers in England. There will however, be a 16-week grace period from 22 July for all care home workers to be vaccinated, with 16 September being the last date for care workers to get their first vaccine, so they are fully vaccinated before regulations come into force.
What are the risks of implementing a compulsory vaccination policy?
Since eligibility for all adult age groups to have the Covid-19 jab, many businesses have worked hard on returning to the workplace and some have gone as far as putting in place mandatory vaccination policies. However, a good degree of caution is advised with this approach. In September this year, the government appeared to give their support of compulsory vaccinations, with Transport Minister, Grant Shapps saying they were a “good idea” and that “some businesses are going to require it”. Some businesses took this as evidence the government was backing employers’ rights to enforce vaccinations. However, the government fell short of making legislative changes to support compulsory vaccination and neither did they provide any rule changes that might protect employers facing tribunal claims as a result of applying such a policy. Therefore, before employers rush to implement a ‘no jab no job’ policy, they’ll need to navigate and take into consideration the risk issues, so that any new policy does not breach employee or worker rights.
Outside the ruling for Care Homes, where the government are introducing specific legislation, the employment tribunal is the ultimate authority on whether employers can require their staff to be vaccinated and businesses should avoid taking a blanket approach. Every claim relating to a refusal to have the vaccine, will be dependent on the specific facts of that case. Employers who take action against an employee for not being vaccinated may face a high risk of a claim at the Employment Tribunal, if they cannot demonstrate their decision to do so was reasonable. Where an employer is considering whether to make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory, it will be crucial they assess the individual risk of each case, with particular consideration given to issues of discrimination, human rights and GDPR.
Alternatives to mandatory vaccination policies
An alternative to any mandatory vaccination policies could be the application of a voluntary vaccination policy, which instead of enforcing the issue, would encourage employees to get vaccinated by offering time off to attend appointments and could in addition, provide good fact-based information and internal support to the workforce as a whole.
Where can I find help?
None of the issues around assessing the risks of implementing a ‘no jab no job’ policy in your business will be easy and so taking professional HR advice could be the best way to protect your business in the event of any disgruntled employee, or possible employment claim.
For more information on how we can provide you with practical HR support on this, or any other HR issue, contact us on 07762 629448, or click here.
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