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No Vaccine, No Job – COVID Vaccination Policies in the Workplace 

No Vaccine, No Job – COVID Vaccination Policies in the Workplace 
21 January 2021
 

As the founder of Pimlico Plumbers says he plans to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy for his employees, are bosses able to demand such measures? 

Dubbed the “no vaccine, no job" policy, Chair of Pimlico Plumbers 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?”

At a news conference on November 23, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccine was not compulsory.

Although the first to reveal a strict policy, Pimlico Plumbers is not the only organisation looking to encourage uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination. Unilever will urge all of its staff to be vaccinated, but will not make it mandatory. According to a report by HR Magazine, 60 per cent of HR leaders have said they will encourage employees to get vaccinated. Holiday tour operator Saga is also taken the decision to require everyone travelling with them to have had the vaccine.

Some businesses are also keen to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside the NHS Test and Trace service, to help safely bring staff back to the workplace.

 

Potential For Discrimination

 

As we know, not everyone will wish to have the COVID-19 vaccination, and nor will everyone be eligible. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed that there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, for example. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that people who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine to not get inoculated. Similarly, some may reject having the vaccine on moral or religious grounds.

As stated in the National Law Review, requiring individuals to act in contravention of their religious beliefs may amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. 

Their recommendation is as follows:

“A possible risk-averse approach could be to inform employees of the benefits of being vaccinated and the positive impact that vaccination could have on the workplace. Employees can then make their own informed decisions about whether to be vaccinated. Nevertheless, sensitivity is key, and employers may want to consider the language they use in order to avoid allegations of undue pressure.”

David Sheppard from Capital Law also 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."

Picture: a photograph showing vials of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccination

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 21 January 2021

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