In the UK we have been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine the whole year.

The world is hoping to get back to normal as soon as possible and the vaccination for coronavirus should prove helpful in tackling this issue. There are still many questions regarding the vaccine and whether it will be mandatory for certain job roles. What’s explored below is just a speculation on what the answer to this question might be, it is not a definitive answer as we are still waiting for more guidance from the government.

As of this week (commencing 14th December) first patients can be immunised with CPV (COVID vaccine) in their GP surgeries. The vaccine will be administered in two doses, with more or less one month between them. 

Can employers compel their employees to take vaccines?

It depends. Employers can instruct their employees to get vaccinated if they have a good enough rationale, for instance those working in healthcare or social services. Saying that, if employers mandate the vaccines for reasons mentioned above, opposition to this rule may lead to a fair dismissal. It all depends on the circumstances, if the refusal is unreasonable and whimsical the road out will be swift and fair. For a dismissal to be fair it must be considered on its individual merits. In addition an employer should seek an alternative to a dismissal. 

What does the Equality Act 2010 say?

The Act provides some protection against discrimination to the employees who do not wish to be vaccinated for a variety of reasons. The Act protects characteristics such as sex or pregnancy, age, belief or disability. Below we will explore those in more detail.

Pregnancy – those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant may wish to refrain from vaccinating in fear of creating complications with the foetus, are protected and an employer may face serious ramifications when violating the right on this basis. 

Religion – belief to be protected must be cogent, serious and must affix to an important part of human life. Would anti-vax movement be protected? Possibly, as mentioned above, every case must be considered on its own merits.

Age – vaccine roll out planned by the government will give priority to older citizens, those younger workers who did not have a chance to vaccinate will have a steady leg to stand on when challenged for the lack of immunisation. 

Disability – certain medical conditions will not allow some people to get vaccinated and this is a good enough reason to refuse to take a vaccine and be wholly within one’s right to do so. 

In sum, employers cannot force their workers to receive any form of medical treatment as a matter of law, they can,  however, include such terms in their employment contract. Again, if the contract has been drafted prior to pandemic, it would be unlikely that an employer wouldn’t breach an array of rights when varying the contract in such a radical way.