There’s lots of controversy around the COVID vaccine at the moment with many people not wanting to have the injection. To add to this, some employers in certain sectors have expressed wishes that their workforce has the jab before returning to work. This is especially the case in some sectors where employees are on the front line working with the public, customer-facing, or working with vulnerable people in care homes.
The insistence of some employers has brought about the question: can employers force employees to have the COVID vaccine? Simply, the answer is no in most cases.
However, compulsory vaccinations have been made mandatory for those working in care homes. This came into effect on the 11th of November 2021.
Please note the below information refers to all employers except CQC-registered care home employers. People working in CQC-registered care homes will need to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated with both doses. For more information visit the Gov.uk website.
What power do employers have?
Although employers can encourage employees to have the covid jab, they cannot force them to have the injection. Enforcing a blanket rule is unfeasible as the employer is not privy to an individual’s healthcare needs, beliefs, or backgrounds. It is not a clear-cut choice.
Employers should however aim to keep their employees safe and healthy, reduce any workplace risks and consider the whole team when completing risk assessments and health and safety audits.
Can anyone force a person to have the jab?
To put this into perspective, even the UK government cannot force people to have the vaccine. Policies like the vaccination passport were ultimately disregarded as it was considered to be too authoritarian in the approach. Public health (control of disease) act 1984 gives the government the power to prevent and control infection. But it prevents a person from being required to have a vaccination against their will.
The only way a person can have a say over another person getting the jab is if you are a parent to a child who cannot make their own decision on the matter or lasting power of attorney. Or if you are working in a care home: please see above.
What if my employer is applying pressure for me to get the jab?
If an employee who has been with your company for two years or longer feels that they had no other choice than to leave the job because of not wanting to have the vaccine, this is classed as constructive dismissal.
If a person was dismissed for not having the vaccine then an unfair dismissal claim could be made for this as long as the two years minimum service has been met.
If the employee was dismissed because of not having the covid vaccine, because of religious reasons, or if they are pregnant, this could be classed as discrimination and a discrimination claim could be made. Again the 2 years of minimum service is required.