The pandemic has hit the UK hard, industries far and wide have been affected by furlough, redundancies, and general changes to daily business.
68.3% of the UK population have been fully vaccinated, but the question still lies can your employer force you to be vaccinated?
It’s a point of contention for employers and employees alike, particularly within the social care sector, as the ‘no jab, no job’ policy has been released by the government for the likes of care home staff across the country.
Employers Can’t Enforce Vaccinations for Staff, Unless Working in Healthcare-providing Settings
From a resolutely legislative perspective the answer is ‘no’ for the most part. As it stands, the government states that UK employers don’t wield the power to make existing employees have the coronavirus vaccine without their consent. Of course, they are entitled to actively encourage the taking up of the vaccine roll-out, but the right to be jabbed in an employment context very much remains the right of the employee.
The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 gives the Government the power to prevent and control an infection, that much is true. However, stops short of legislating on individuals being forced into undergoing medical treatments, including vaccinations.
But this isn’t the end of the story.
It’s been well documented that NHS and care home staff across the UK have been told that ‘no jab, equals no job’ and as of 10th October, 12% of staff in older adult care homes were still not fully vaccinated, and are at risk of losing their jobs.
Nursing staff are responsible for the health and wellbeing of potentially severely vulnerable members of society. Who are identified as highly susceptible to complications, bearing in mind the underlying health issues and age factors which place them at serious risk.
But away from the media glare of our front-line hospitals and care homes, what about our offices, warehouses, factories, leisure centres and public buildings. For employers across the board, the situation is one which is complex and riddled with challenges. Which can change quickly.
After all, the bottom line with regards to any employers’ working relationship with their staff is to ensure their health and safety at all times. As they’re legal compliant to do. The general ‘duty of care’ card being frequently played over the years to take reasonable steps to minimise any workplace risks.
And what greater workplace risk in the past eighteen months or so than the threat of Covid.
The Potential Pitfalls of Enforcing Workplace Vaccinations
Looking at the fundamental facts of the matter and a key area to consider if an employer was permitted to enforce a vaccine ruling amongst its workforce, would be the area surrounding constructive dismissal. For example, should an employee feel that their rights were infringed by being forced to get jabbed, and they subsequently felt compelled to hand in their notice and resign from a role, then constructive dismissal could easily be pursued. A significant grey area which would open up a can of worms and clearly one which the government wishes to avoid as we write.
Conversely, if an employer was afforded the legal right and justification to dismiss an employee on the grounds they refused to take the vaccine, then claims for unfair dismissal would very much be an option. Simply because this goes against the present grain, and certainly hasn’t been ratified in a court of law.
Meanwhile, calls of discrimination would understandably ring out if an employee chooses to refuse the vaccination based on their religious beliefs, were pregnant or suffered from other health issues which they believed would be compromised by accepting the jab. While these concerns and current states of play notably refer to existing employees, the rules relating to discrimination would still hold water with newbies. Whether or not an employer decided to incorporate a pre-condition of acceptance of new contract terms which hinged on vaccination evidence or not.
Who Should Employees Turn to for Impartial Advice?
Over on the ACAS website, the independent advice is particularly useful. It suggests that employers might wish to sit down and address the issue with staff and share the benefits of being vaccinated. And include trade union representation at the same table.
Discussing aspects such as access to the jab, the subject of time off work to attend an appointment to receive it, and whether your employer plans on extracting data which might contravene data protection laws, are all important questions from the get-go.
Go-to human resources organisation, CIPD offer a useful guide aimed at the situation from the alternative, employer’s perspective. Once again, containing invaluable information and general pointers about how best to go about your business, if you are responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of staff members.
Where Do We Stand with Employer’s Liability?
All employers have what’s legally referred to as a duty of care to their staff, in all workplace environments, with employee health, safety and both physical and emotional wellbeing found at the very core of this ethic. This legal obligation also extends to the safeguarding of visitors and members of the public who attend the premises.
Back-to-work protocols and practices for employees returning to their normal place of work following successive national lockdowns thrust upon us as a result of the pandemic have been left up to employers to enforce. In the various ways recommended, but not necessarily legislated for at this juncture.
Measures have included the carrying out of company risk assessments, together with the introduction of social distancing, the wearing of face coverings, improved ventilation, attention to desk-spacing, the provision of hand sanitisers and protective shields, and lateral flow testing as and when required, all typically considered the best courses of action from an expansive pick and mix approach.
And largely dependent on individual companies and none of which is mandatory as such. Almost entirely left to business owners’ own discretion, in collaboration with their returning workforce.
DIYPI Are Here to Direct You on Your Personal Injury Journey
So, with this in mind, talk of ‘no jab, no job’ situations would be observed as a fairly extreme stance to adopt from employers, aside from in healthcare-providing settings as already discussed. And not in line with current government guidance on this most divisive of public health matters.
Here at DIYPI we are well versed in workplace injuries and health conditions triggered by bad working practices and procedures. Which tend to focus on the more traditional slips, trips and falls episodes, as opposed to virus spreading and the legal ins and outs. Something we’ve been practising successfully for almost two decades now.
To speak to our team of experts on any of these issues which might affect your ability to perform your roles, where you feel an employer – or public service provider – could have neglected their duty of care, then get in touch today.