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Minister Says Employers May Legally Force New Staff to Have Vaccine

19 February 2021 | Updated 25 February 2021

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has suggested in an interview that it may be legal for employers to insist on new staff being vaccinated.

In an interview with Robert Peston this week, Buckland however admitted that it would be difficult to enforce this on existing employees. He said:

“Generally speaking I’d be surprised if there were contracts of employment existing now that did make that approach lawful. I think frankly the issue would have to be tested.

“I can see that in particular work environments the desirability of having a vaccine is going to be higher than in others.”

Employment Law Partner at Nelson, Laura Kearsley, agrees that it is unlikely that an employer could reasonably amend an employment contract to make it a requirement that an employee be vaccinated.


No Jab, No Job?


Last month, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers said he plans to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy for his employees, dubbed the “no vaccine, no job" policy, He told City A.M: “When we go off to Africa and Caribbean countries, we have to have a jab for malaria – we don’t think about it, we just do it. So why would we accept something within our country that’s going to kill us when we can have a vaccine to stop it?”

However, most legal experts agree that mandating the vaccination in employment contracts is murky ethical territory.

David Sheppard from Capital Law raises the point that, if employers were to compel their employees to be vaccinated, there could be criminal implications to these actions. He writes:

"Forcing anybody to receive a vaccine injection under duress, under UK law, could constitute an unlawful injury to another. Therefore, for anybody to become vaccinated, the individuals’ genuine and informed consent, and voluntary participation, is essential."

CEO of contract cleaning company Cleanology, Dominic Ponniah, commented recently that he will not be writing such conditions into employment contracts, saying:

“We won’t mandate that our employees have the vaccine. I think that his serious ethical questions surrounding it. I think most people will want to have it and do the right thing for wider society.”

Picture: a photograph of several empty glass vials

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 19 February 2021


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