Can employers force their employees to have the COVID-19 vaccination?
The current success of the vaccine roll-out brings hope to businesses that normal operations could soon resume. However, while having a high proportion of vaccinated employees would be advantageous for employers to resume business as usual, it is also clear that not every worker will want to. An employee could have a medical, religious, or ethical objection, or may simply have a cautious nature and be adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach.
There are no statutory provisions that could force individuals to get vaccinated. Some employers may be considering using health and safety grounds as the basis for informing employees that refusing to have a vaccination could lead to disciplinary action. However, trying to force your workers to be vaccinated would raise a number of legal issues, such as discrimination claims and human rights concerns.
The Government has repeatedly emphasised that people will not be pushed to have a vaccine if they don't want one. Instead, it has set out to persuade people that they are safe and that it's in everyone's interests to have one so that we can get back to some sort of normality. It stands to reason that if the Government can't legally compel people to be vaccinated, neither can an employer.
Encourage through education and consultation
It is best to take a sympathetic and consultative approach when communicating with employees about COVID-19 vaccinations. Rather than trying to coerce your people to have the vaccine, you may want to strongly encourage them to take it when it is offered to them and signpost them to legitimate sources of information so they can make an informed decision.
Time off for appointments
There is no automatic entitlement for staff to take time off work to get vaccinated, or to be paid if time off is granted. However, employees may have a contractual right to paid or unpaid time off for medical appointments. To encourage your staff to get immunised, you may want to consider providing them with additional paid leave for their appointments.
Returning to work following a vaccination
The Government's guidance on what to expect after a COVID-19 vaccination states that individuals can resume normal activities as long as they feel well. This is the perfect time to remind members of staff of your absence policy in case they are unwell following their jab.
Bullying and harassment
Given the polarising effect that the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations can have, it is a good idea to remind all of your employees to maintain respect for their colleagues when this issue arises.
Continued preventative measures against COVID-19 in the workplace
Even if most of your employees comply with the vaccination roll-out, it doesn't mean that you should relax your efforts to make your workplace Covid secure. Until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, these precautions still remain the best way of protecting your people.
At Watkin Davies, we understand that we know that the pandemic the continues to challenge many businesses, some of which are complex. If you’re concerned about your current Business Insurance package, including Employees Liability and Directors and Officers officer, or simply want to find ways to strengthen what you already have in place, why not give us a call on 02920 626 226.