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Coronavirus: No jab, No job?

There has been considerable debate about whether or not employers can force their employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Pimlico Plumbers recently announced that they intend to modify their employment contracts to include a requirement that all new hires must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The debate raises important legal questions that employers and lawyers will have to get to grips with over the coming months – can employers force employees to take the vaccine? in other words is it a case of no jab, no job?

Looking at it from a commercial point of view, Pimlico Plumbers say that the policy would go a long way to protect their customers and that when offered the choice, customers would rather have someone who has been vaccinated, enter their homes, than someone who has not been vaccinated. Consequently, having vaccinated employees could promote customer confidence and give the company an edge over its competitors.

From an employer’s perspective, they say that they have a duty of care towards safeguarding their employees and that the introduction of this new policy would merely fulfil their legal obligation during the global pandemic.

However it is not as simple as this. Although legally, there is nothing to prevent employers from inserting a ‘no jab, no job’ clause in employment contracts, for new hires, employers cannot currently force existing employees to take the vaccine. So the introduction of this new policy could carry great risk for employers.

Ultimately employees are entitled to refuse the vaccine for all sorts of reasons, which for example include religion or belief, pregnancy, disability or other medical grounds. Employees may be able to bring legal claims where such rights are denied.

Pimlico Plumbers have said that in relation to existing employees, they are not putting anyone under pressure, to have the vaccine and that most of their employees approve the policy. The firm has even offered to pay for private vaccinations (when available) and travel costs, in order to safeguard their employees and have said that this would be done during the firm’s own time, an approach which has been welcomed by existing employees.

Whilst businesses appear to be seeking ‘no jab, no job’ contracts, the safest option for employers, at the moment, is to promote the vaccine roll-out and incentivise employees to take it, rather than forcing or pressurising them to take it.

If you have any queries about this issue or other employment matters, please contact Raj Dhokia in our Employment Department by telephone 020 7625 6003 or by email r.dhokia@fgdlaw.co.uk