Hot topic part two: Mandatory COVID vaccinations at work
The UK’s roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine began in December 2020. In response London plumbing firm, Pimlico Plumbers, has said it will be introducing a so called ‘no jab, no job’ policy as soon as possible, making vaccination a term of employment.
Chairman Charlie Mullins added he would be prepared to pay for private immunisations for people at the firm that would be done on the company’s time.
As an end seems to be in sight for the pandemic, will policies like this become more common in the workplace? And is it lawful, and ethical, for HR to do so?
Ken Matos, director people science, Culture Amp
Employers who do not already have health and safety regulations mandating vaccinations should think twice about entering the game now as they risk opening a Pandora’s box of precedent and complexities.
Where does it end? Is this a door to mandates on smoking, weight loss, healthy diet? Will you mandate the flu vaccine going forward? Why didn’t you before?
All of these questions raise worrisome issues with employee autonomy and equal opportunity as companies control pay and hours which directly impact access to various health and wellbeing resources.
People are demanding vaccinations because they want this pandemic to end faster. Mandating vaccinations on a company-by-company basis will not do that and may spawn a host of other problems and tasks.
Katie Russell, partner, employment law, Burges Salmon
Without any statutory obligation to make vaccination compulsory, employers that want to make the vaccination mandatory for their employees will need to show that this is a reasonable instruction.
What is ‘reasonable’ is likely to change over time if, as is anticipated, as vaccination becomes more widespread. For the moment, the reasonableness of a requirement to be vaccinated will be difficult to establish in most circumstances.
For the time being, COVID-secure measures should remain in place and those who have been vaccinated should continue to comply with government guidance.
There are a number of steps that HR professionals can take now in preparation, including auditing roles to identify any which might reasonably require the person to have been vaccinated.
Employers should also consider their approach to customers and other visitors to their premises to ensure their approach is consistent.
Find part one of this hot topic here.
This piece appears in the January/February 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk