As lockdown restrictions have begun to be eased people are now slowly returning to the office, which has raised questions as to whether employers ought to request that their employees be fully vaccinated.
It is important to note the fact that in-spite of the many rumours that have been present concerning this matter, employers have no legal standing to request employees to be vaccinated against their wishes. Hence there is currently no legal instrument in place that obliges employees to have a compulsory covid-19 jab. Nonetheless, having said that, it is important to bear in mind that from the 11th of November 2021 anyone who is working or volunteering at a care home will have to be compulsorily doubly-vaccinated (unless they are validly exempt from it).
Presumably, the vast majority of people, regardless of whether it is employers or employees, would prefer for everyone in the workplace to be fully vaccinated, however, that choice is, evidently, a very personal one. On the one hand, some employers would, quite understandably, not feel it is right for them to compel, let alone oblige, their employees to go and get vaccinated. On the other hand, if one or potentially more employees is infected with Covid-19 then that could have a devastating effect on the business. This is because it could, potentially, require the rest of the staff to isolate or at the very least require an implementation of a “work from home” strategy which could make the business lose money.
Another potential problem if compulsory vaccination were to be implemented is that it could risk the potential loss of future employees. Job-seekers may be discouraged if a potential future employer has a compulsory “no jab, no job” policy. This would ergo mean that businesses would lose on the potential that these individuals could bring to that sector and, in turn, the job-seeker would be left jobless.
But, even if this policy does not necessarily disincentivise future workers, it could lead to an increase in legal claims being made by current employees. The latter could very well bring legal claims against the former for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination. This would not only have disastrous consequences for the reputation of the employer but it could also lead to a loss of large amounts of money due to the hefty costs of litigation. Businesses will consequently have to ensure that all commercial contracts or commitments are not impacted by these new arrangements caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As well as encourage, rather than oblige, its employees to be fully vaccinated by discussing these matters with their members of staff, to have a more comprehensive understanding of their motives for favouring (or not) getting the vaccine.
This issue is undoubtedly a moral and legal minefield. Whether the policy of “no jab, no job” will become commonly adapted by employers is not yet certain, but what is clear is that employers need to tread very careful in such a complex and delicate matter.