Can I enforce employees to get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

We’ve compiled what you can and can’t do as an employer if employees do not want the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Written by: alcumus
3rd September

At Alcumus we have taken several calls about what to do when an employee refuses to be vaccinated and whether they can enforce their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For this reason, we’ve compiled what you can and can’t do as an employer if employees do not want the COVID-19 vaccine.

Changes to COVID-19 Vaccine regulations

Many employers are now calling for employees to return to the workplace and on the 16th August there will no longer be the requirement for isolation for fully vaccinated employees/workers when they have been in contact with a positive COVID-19 case. Instead, they will be advised (non binding) to take a PCR test and will not have to isolate whilst they await the results.

So what can the employer do?

Can:

  1. Persuade people that the covid vaccines are safe and that it’s in everyone’s interests to have one so that we can get back to some sort of normality.
  • Have a vaccination policy so staff are clear
  • Pay staff for vaccination appointments so they do not suffer a financial detriment.
  • If your employees work in a Care Home you can insist that they are vaccinated (unless they are exempt). Where they refuse there may be options to dismiss them. You would of course have to look at all alternatives before making that decision.
  • If an employee is dismissed make sure that they are offered an appeal and that they are paid notice as per their contract of employment.
  • Insist that staff tell you if they have been vaccinated. If asking employees to be vaccinated is a reasonable management instruction you’ll need this information to check compliance. Information about who has been vaccinated will constitute sensitive personal health data and you’ll need to comply with GDPR. The same will be true of information about who has not been vaccinated and why.
  • If you can’t demonstrate that asking staff to be vaccinated is a reasonable management instruction, don’t insist they provide you with this information. You need a legitimate and lawful reason to ask

Can’t:

  1. Tell employees they must be vaccinated. The exception to this is for those working in Care Homes in the UK from 11th November. This includes those required to enter Care Homes for work such as hair stylists, contractors and trainers. Friends, family (who also may be unpaid carers) and essential care givers will not need to show proof of vaccination or medical exemption.
  • Discriminate against staff who refuse to be vaccinated. Some staff will not yet have been offered the vaccine. Some staff might refuse vaccination on religious or philosophical belief grounds and as such will be protected under the Equality Act 2010. There is also a small group of people who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons including severe allergies. If your policy adversely affects people from a protected group (race, age, sex, disability and religion or belief being the most likely) it will potentially be indirectly discriminatory.
  • Relax your efforts to make your workplace ‘Covid secure’ as, until the vast majority of the population are vaccinated, these precautions still remain the best way of protecting your staff.

Given the potential to get this very wrong, we strongly recommend that you take HR advice before taking any action against someone who has refused to be vaccinated.

Need help getting your offices ready? We’ve created a COVID-19 checklist for employers.