A proper and effective vaccination can help people from getting sick and transmitting the illness on to others. COVID-19 and other flu-like diseases can spread very easily, which could cause a significant disruption in the workplace and cost businesses money. But a very common question today is whether employers can mandate their workforce to get vaccinated and if they can legally terminate those employees who refuse.
It’s the legal duty of business owners to ensure the safety and health of customers and the workforce. Vaccinations can be an effective way to achieve this goal. In some situations, this requirement is reasonable, and all employees will happily comply. However, it is important for employers to be absolutely cautious when pursuing a mandatory policy for any vaccination COVID-19 or otherwise. Improper implementations can cause various legal complications.
Employees Protected Under Discrimination Law
If employers take a disciplinary action due to refusal or negligence on the employees’ side, it can expose them to legal claims. In the United Kingdom, employees are protected under the discrimination law. Pregnant women may be concerned that the child will suffer from medical condition due to the vaccination. The problem could get worse if non-compliant employees are treated less favourably by managers and co-workers due to their refusal to get vaccinated.
It is possible that a mandatory vaccination policy will infringe the right of privacy of employees based on the Article 8 of the Human Right Act 1998. It is considered a criminal assault if employees get vaccinated without their consent. If employees are dismissed due to refusal, it is clearly an unfair dismissal. If employers are keen to get their employees to be vaccinated, it should only be represented as a non-contractual policy that explains the health benefits of vaccine during a pandemic. It is acceptable to brief employees in a meeting about the benefits of vaccination, but those who refuse must not be disciplined, penalised or forced.
If employers want to add a vaccination clause into contracts for new employees, they should do it in a reasonable way and new employees who voice their concerns should be addressed appropriately. If employers want to change contractual requirements for current employees, this should be agreed upon by everyone. If an employer enforces the change without employee’s consent, it will be a significant breach of contract. In this situation, employees are entitled to resign and receive full financial compensation. Because changing existing work contracts can be a legal minefield, it is better to reach an informal agreement that’s beneficial for all sides. Even if some employees insist on not getting vaccinated, they must agree to maintain healthy procedures to prevent possible transmission.
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