Jabs for Jobs
Ever since the start of the UK’s vaccination programme, this was a heated topic, which has been fuelled by the announcement of Pimlico Plumbers’ founder and chairman Charlie Mullins to introduce a “no jab, no job” policy that will require all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The UK’s Health & Safety regulations state, that employers must provide a safe working environment to their employees, which made the Government’s guidance on Covid-Safe workspaces central to workplace safety during this pandemic.
What does this mean for you as an employer?
So, with all things legal in mind, it will need to be tried and tested in court for some hard and fast guidelines. However, if you decide to state that an employee must have the vaccine in order to remain employed, the chances of it ending in an unfair dismissal claim are very likely, which comes with associated frustration, energy and stress.
If your employees (and workers) have frequent and regular contact with other people, be it customers, colleagues, the public etc, during the course of their normal duties, it is reasonable to ask them to have the vaccine. An unreasonable refusal could be deemed as “failure to follow are reasonable management instruction”, “some other substantial reason for dismissal” or similar clause in the gross misconduct section of the contract of employment or staff handbook.
The key here is “being reasonable”. As an employer you will have to demonstrate a “fair process” was followed to determine, what is a reasonable or an unreasonable refusal. It is important to consider alternatives to dismissal, wherever possible. It is also helpful to provide your employees with detailed and unbiased information about the vaccine itself.
It is important to understand the concerns of your employee against the needs of the business, your other employees, customers and members of the public, when making a decision.
For example, there is a difference if an employee is refusing to take the vaccine if they work with clinically vulnerable people and someone who is allergic to the vaccine or has been advised not to take it by their doctor.
We would recommend adding some wording to the employment contract as above and document somewhere (maybe in board meeting or management meeting minutes), what you determine to be reasonable or unreasonable grounds for not have the vaccine and discussing this with your employees.
One final note: One way or another, the vaccine cannot be treated as a replacement for other measures, such as social distancing or increased hygiene, which every employer should bear in mind.