How do the coronavirus vaccines change HR practice?15 Feb 2021 // In the press
Fiona Mendel, Employment Associate at Seddons comments in HR Grapevine as to whether employers can force staff to be vaccinated.
Fiona comments that the fact the vaccinations are being rolled out on mass “comes as a welcomed relief to business leaders, providing a glimmer of hope that normal operations can resume as soon as possible. Whilst many organisations will be keen to encourage employees to get vaccinated, not every worker will want to receive it. This brings into question whether businesses are able to force their staff to be vaccinated and if so, what grounds they can rely upon.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 obliges employers to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks and therefore, it would be fair to say that employers should be encouraging, at the very least, all staff to be vaccinated to protect not just themselves but others in the workplace. Employees have a duty under the HSWA to co-operate so that their employer is able to comply with their duty to reduce workplace risk. If businesses are able to show, having carried out a risk assessment, that having the vaccine is the most reasonably practicable way of mitigating the risk of Covid-19, it could, in theory, stipulate that having the vaccination is mandatory as a health and safety requirement.
This justification is likely to present businesses with various challenges however, given the Government has not, as yet, made the vaccination mandatory. Whilst many individuals won’t place themselves in the ‘anti-vaxxer’ community, reasons for not wishing to be vaccinated vary; for some, it may be based on religion or philosophical beliefs (not using animal-based products due to its ingredients such as pork gelatine) and for others lack of confidence and unknown side effects may be a more widespread concern. The Equality Act 2010 protects employees against discrimination; it would not be outside the realms of possibility that mandatory vaccination may be indirectly discriminatory unless it can be objectively justified.
Given all individuals are safeguarded by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects “interference by a public authority”, employers will need to consider carefully their stance on mandatory vaccination as part of their overall risk assessments."
Read the full article online here.