Covid 19 Vaccine and the return to work of your Employees

Q: Does everyone in the UK have to take the vaccine?

A: In a word, no. The Government will be making vaccinations compulsory in the care sector, but it’s unlikely to be the case for other industries.

Q: Why would somebody refuse the vaccine?

A: There are lots of reasons, including religious beliefs or health concerns. Taking the vaccine is a personal choice, so if an employee refuses it, they’re not required to tell you their reasons why, either.

Q: Couldn’t I just make taking the vaccine part of employee contracts?

A: Changing your current employees’ contracts is risky territory. While it’s technically possible for you to do this, your staff could raise a dispute—and if you discipline or dismiss anyone for not taking the vaccine, then you could face a constructive or unfair dismissal claim.

Q: Is there another way I can make my staff take the vaccine?

A: Both you and your employees have a duty to maintain a safe place of work under health & safety legislation, so you can encourage staff to take the vaccine, but not enforce it. One way to encourage uptake is to teach staff about the benefits of the vaccine, either by talking to them about any concerns they might have, or by offering them resources that tell them all about it.

Q: What if an employee is telling other staff in my business to refuse the vaccine?

A: If an employee is spreading false and harmful information, it could stop other staff from taking the vaccine, and this could put your workforce at risk. While an employee is free to hold any opinion they choose, you may wish to take further action if the views they’re expressing at work could potentially cause harm to others. But it’s advisable to talk to the employee first. They might be motivated by fear, in which case some reassurance and support could help.

Q: Can I decide to only hire new staff if they’ve had the vaccine?

A: Enforcing your current employees to take the vaccine is very risky territory for the reasons set out above, but it could be easier to make it mandatory for new starters. To do this, you’ll need to update your employment contract for new starters and share your position on vaccines before or during the interview process.

But be careful. Applicants might have a valid reason for refusing the vaccine and you can’t prevent them from applying, or getting the job, as a result of any protected characteristics, as this could be discrimination. Younger applicants could also still be waiting for their vaccine, and not hiring them because of this could be age discrimination.

Q: Should I keep a record of which staff have had the vaccine?

A: Yes, it’s good practice to keep track of who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine.