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What does it mean for employers if vaccines become mandatory by law? A leaked government paper suggests that care home workers, and potentially frontline healthcare workers, will be legally required to have the COVID jab. This is in response to the relatively low uptake of the vaccine by those working in the care sector, with some of the most vulnerable people.
A government spokesperson has stated that no final decisions have been made, but it’s clear that this is a real possibility.
If such a legal requirement is introduced, does this mean employers can safely implement ‘no jab no job’ policies? There is no simple answer to this. Such a law will be a first – it raises a number of issues including around fundamental human rights and discrimination. If the government does introduce this requirement it’s likely to face a large amount of resistance and legal challenge.
It wouldn’t be the first time laws have been passed which have later been repealed as being unlawful (remember tribunal fees – the government had to refund fees paid by thousands claimants over a period of 4 years!)
At least for the moment, employers wanting to avoid the risk of claims should steer away from mandatory vaccine policies, and consider different approaches. Take a look at our January newsletter for our suggestions about testing and vaccination policies.
Some employers will be willing to play the numbers game, roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may. One of the largest care home operators in the UK has put in place a ‘no jab, no job’ policy, and anyone refusing to be vaccinated without a medical reason won’t be able to work for them.
Will they get sued and be forced to pay thousands of pounds compensation? Maybe, maybe not. But it will only take one person to bring a claim, and be successful, for the floodgates to open.
As with most scenarios, it’s about balancing risk. In this particular scenario, the stakes are potentially much higher, more controversial and unprecedented. But employers are faced with having to make extremely tough decisions – to protect their workforce, clients and business. It’s a delicate balancing act, and definitely not a one size fits all situation. We’re watching this space with just a little trepidation.