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Can my employer force me to have the Coronavirus vaccine?

As increasing numbers of us are getting a jab, employers may desire all their employees to be vaccinated. However, an employee may not be as keen. What happens in this situation?

It is up to individual employers to decide whether they insist on vaccination, and the consequences of refusal. Can an employee who is dismissed for not complying with a requirement to be vaccinated claim for unfair dismissal?

Save in very limited circumstances, an employee with less than 2 years’ service will not be able to claim. A person employed for longer can claim but this does not prevent the dismissal in the first place. Also, any claim may take a long time to resolve, will not result in immediate reinstatement, and is unlikely to result in a significant pay out.

The principle that an employer can limit employment in response to a failure to be vaccinated is already established. The key question applicable to the coronavirus jab is whether the employer has acted reasonably. This can only be assessed on a case by case basis by considering why an employer is requiring vaccination and the reason for refusal.

In some cases, the Government recognises that it is not appropriate for people to be vaccinated, and this can be used by an individual to justify their refusal. In other cases, such as where the employee’s reasons are related to a disability or, for example, to their religion and belief, they might claim that they have been treated less favourably because of their refusal. If so, it may be possible to bring a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Otherwise, consideration needs to be given to the type of work an employee is being asked to do and the risks to the employee, their colleagues and others exposed to them of being infected. As the Queen said after she was vaccinated, the key consideration is to “think about other people”. The more likely others may be impacted by a refusal to be vaccinated, the more likely a dismissal may be justified.

For further information, please contact Paul McGrath on 01473 255591 or email paul.mcgrath@jackamans.co.uk.

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