COVID Vaccine – What if employees refuse?

29 January 2021

As of 22 January over 5 million people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in the UK.  As an employer what do you do if your employees do not agree to getting a vaccine?

Employers have a duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees. Asking employees to agree to a vaccination against coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to be a reasonable step to take to reduce the risk to employees’ health. However, if employees do not agree to a vaccine, you are limited in what they can do, beyond encouraging take up.

You could consider informing employees that refusing a vaccination could lead to disciplinary action but there are a raft of reasons why staff might not want one – from religion and philosophical belief, to simply wanting to wait until any side effects are more widely understood.

It is currently unlikely that you would be able to use health and safety grounds to justify taking disciplinary action against an employee for refusing a vaccine, particularly in the early stages of the vaccination programme. This may change over time, when more is known about the effects of the vaccination programme.

We are advising clients to develop a Vaccination Policy to provide employees with information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme and encourage them to receive a vaccine when the opportunity arises.

At this stage it is clear there is no right answer to the ethical question around vaccinations. As employers you will need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons and listen to your employees’ views over the coming months.

In the meantime, if you would like a template Vaccination Policy, please get in touch.

PS Human Resources are on hand to offer advice and guidance on any people management issues.

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Please contact us on 01473 653000 or email hello@pshumanresources.co.uk for more information.

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