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Coronavirus Vaccine: A Condition of Employment?

The Coronavirus vaccine remains a huge area of uncertainty for employers and you may be aware of recent widespread reports that Pimlico Plumbers would require workers to get the vaccine. Pimlico Plumbers released their own blog about the issue which can be found here and they explain that the vaccination when readily available would be a condition of employment for those who can have the vaccine safely. Their approach also appears to apply only to new starters as it is confirmed that new staff would not be forced into doing anything.

In light of this approach, we have considered the key questions that the vaccination raises for employers:

  • Can an employer insist that employees are vaccinated?

Currently, neither the UK Government nor employers have a statutory right to compel vaccinations. It could be argued that an employer might have a right to compel a vaccination at common law, but this raises Human Rights issues. It remains that any decision that looks to impose a requirement on their employees, runs the risk of individuals bringing discrimination claims and challenging this, particularly on grounds of disability or religion. 

  • Can an employer ask employees to be vaccinated against Coronavirus?

Yes, an employer can ask an employee to do this on a voluntary basis. However, the risk remains that some employees may still raise complaints or discrimination arguments following a request. 

  • Can an employer prioritise candidates who have been vaccinated for job roles?

Without specific government guidance, this area remains unclear. Employers should be mindful of how they choose to operate and be aware of the potential risk of discrimination claims and challenges to any approach.

  • What employers should do now?

Without clear government guidance, employers should proceed with caution when it comes to Coronavirus vaccinations. For workplaces that remain open in England, employers must carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment to develop a specific strategy to stop the virus' spread. It remains to be seen whether the Government will issue any guidance on vaccinations.

This bulletin is for general guidance only and should not be used for any other purpose. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice.

JMW Solicitors is a Limited Liability Partnership.

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