The question this week: Can I force my employees to take the COVID-19 vaccination?
We asked our HR and employment law experts about a very hot topic with our clients and in the news this week… can employers require employees to have the COVID-19 vaccine?
The short answer to this question is no, employers can’t require employees to have the vaccine. Given that the government doesn’t have the power to require anyone to have the vaccine, employers certainly don’t.
To discipline or dismiss an employee who refuses to have the vaccine would be very high risk, raising a number of legal issues such as discrimination, constructive dismissal and human rights issues.
Employers do, however, have a duty to ensure as far as ‘reasonably practicable’ the health and safety of their employees at work. Asking and encouraging them to agree to have the COVID-19 vaccination is likely to be a reasonable step to take.
It’s very important not to pressure any employee to take it and you should be very wary about potential discrimination issues on the grounds of religious belief, disability and age.
You should keep in mind that essentially what you’re asking your employees to do is, in effect, subject themselves to a medical procedure. Asking employees to undertake medical questionnaires and examinations can only be done in limited circumstances and even then, employers must be very careful with what they do with the results. Employees may feel this is a personal decision and if they feel under pressure to take the vaccine it may cause employee relations issues too.
The aim of maintaining health and safety in the workplace is likely to be achieved in other, more proportionate ways, for example ensuring the workplace is COVID-19 secure, regular testing and self-isolating.
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