Mandatory COVID Vaccination for Workers
Several businesses in the UK are reportedly considering implementing a mandatory requirement of vaccination in order to continue or start employment. Pimlico Plumbers have announced a “no jab, no job” policy for new recruits, which is based on the hope that if businesses can show that they are sufficiently inoculated against the virus, they will be permitted to continue operating.
Other important organisations such as care home operators are also considering requiring their staff to have a COVID-19 vaccine once they have been made available to all adults in the UK.
However, concerns have been raised about whether such a requirement is legal and, if so, if it would lead to discrimination against people who are unable to, or choose not to receive, a vaccine.
In England and Wales, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (PHA) gives the government powers to prevent, control, or safeguard against the incidence or spread of infection or contamination. However, section 45E of the PHA specifically provides that a person must not be required to undergo medical treatment,” where “medical treatment includes vaccination and other prophylactic treatment”. The Coronavirus Act 2020 extends this prohibition to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the UK government cannot make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
As the government does not have legal power to enforce vaccinations, it seems unlikely that UK employers will be able to compel employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Indeed, such a requirement may amount to direct or indirect discrimination. Each case turns on its facts and employers should take detailed legal advice if they are considering such policy.