Can an employer make its staff have the COVID-19 jab?

Posted on 10 February 2021

There is currently considerable debate about whether an employer can have a mandatory vaccination policy.

At present, employers who would like their workforce to be vaccinated should encourage their staff to do so. Employers face substantial risks if they try to force the issue, or if they treat unvaccinated staff detrimentally. Doing so raises significant employment law issues, not least discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Despite this, it may be a reasonable management instruction to require staff to be vaccinated, where this is necessary for them to do their job. Whether it is necessary is a fact-sensitive assessment, which can change as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop. However, at the current time, our view is that it is not necessary for office-based staff to have the jab, in order to do their jobs.

The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out also raises a variety of employee relations and compliance issues. Given the sizeable number of people with vaccination concerns, an employer should sensitively handle the messaging about vaccinations and about how staff will be treated. What is important is that the employer's vaccination approach is properly thought through. This includes addressing issues ranging from the simple, such as whether to grant paid time off for vaccination, to the complex, such as ensuring that monitoring who has had the jab complies with data protection law.

If you would like more information on how best to manage COVID-19 vaccination in your business, please get in touch with your usual Mishcon contact or with a member of the Employment team.

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