As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be rolled out across the UK, many employees are concerned about the prospect of being forced to be vaccinated against their wishes.
The good news is that the government has confirmed that there are no plans to make the vaccine mandatory.
Similarly, an employer cannot necessarily make it a contractual obligation for a member of staff to be vaccinated, but if they refuse and this is likely to pose a threat to others, then it may have implications for the employee’s continued employment.
If an individual is employed to work in a care home, then their refusal to be vaccinated is likely to mean that the care home residents could still be at risk of contracting COVID-19.
In such circumstances, it could potentially be reasonable for the employer to dismiss the employee for refusing the vaccine, most likely on the ground of ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ as a result of failing to follow a reasonable management instruction.
However, full consideration will need to be given to the alternatives, such as redeployment so that they do not come into contact with those care home residents who are the most vulnerable or already sick.
There is also a risk of discrimination claims being pursued if an employee is refusing the vaccine on religious grounds or because they have a health condition that amounts to a disability.
As a result, in most situations dismissing or disciplining a member of staff for refusing the vaccine is likely to be unwise and could lead to employment tribunal claims.
Instead it is much more advisable for employers to encourage staff to have the vaccine, for example by providing reliable information about the benefits so that they can make an informed choice. If employees remain against the vaccine then employers could meet with them privately to discuss their concerns and see if they can help to ease them.
Each case is likely to turn on its own specific facts but with employees likely to hold a wide range of views about the vaccine itself, communication and transparency with staff is likely to continue to be key to navigating this next stage of the pandemic.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.