Employers in the UK are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges of seeking to enforce double vaccination status for staff as they navigate their way through the pandemic and subsequent “pingdemic” which is causing widespread disruption.

Currently, double vaccination status is only compulsory for employees who work in care homes (with effect from 11 November 2021). However, employers across other sectors are also keen to protect their workforce and keep their businesses moving.

Tim Copplestone, partner and employment law specialist with national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, highlights the need for employers to proceed with caution in regards to the introduction of vaccination policies. 

Employers in sectors outside of care homes potentially face the risk of Tribunal claims if they make vaccinations mandatory amongst their workforce,” says Tim. “Employees could potentially seek to resist such a move on several grounds ranging from human rights (including article 8: respect for your private and family life) to indirect discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic such as religion or belief, and pregnancy.  

For many employers, however, protecting their staff is key to the success of their business and so some have taken the approach of including new terms in any new employment contract offer or contract renewal – where the employee agrees to be vaccinated with the advised two jabs as a strict condition of their employment.  

We have seen this being introduced across a range of industries, especially where close contact is unavoidable, including professional football.

In the United States, businesses, including Google and Walmart, are increasingly demanding that their employees are vaccinated. However, in the UK, businesses are constrained to more stringent employment laws.

Tim goes on to say: “It is an emotive issue and some employers strongly wish to make vaccinations a mandatory condition, protecting the safety of their employees and third parties. There are also wider benefits such as the relaxation in the self-isolation rules if someone is pinged but they have received two doses of the vaccine.  

It is a delicate balance of employment statutory rights and employer health and safety obligations, but an employer should seek to introduce changes through consultation, and identify an employee’s personal concerns through discussions with them.”  

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