Can I force my employees to receive the vaccine?
Employers are unable to insist on vaccination without consent of the employee; forcing a reluctant employee to have a vaccination would be a criminal assault. Employers’ encouragements may range from detailed medical explanations to informing employees that they cannot attend the office or certain events if they continue to refuse immunisation.
It is possible that some employers might have a right to discipline and dismiss employees who refuse vaccination based on contractual powers in their employment contracts; if the contracts contain widely-drafted medical testing and treatment clauses. This will, however, be unusual as even with a clause, injection cannot be given without consent. Therefore, some employers may be met with staff coming into work who continue to refuse vaccination. Potential legal ramifications include:
- Personal injury claims if the vaccine has side effects.
- Claims of discrimination on grounds of disability or religion; some vaccinations may contain gelatine from pork. Individuals with health conditions such as weakened immune systems may oppose the vaccination.
- Unfair dismissal claims if employee’s are threatened with dismissal due to their refusal to accept the vaccine.
Do employees have to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions?
Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 restricts the circumstances in which employers can ask potential employees questions about their health before making a job offer of employment, this includes making a conditional offer. The reason for this, is to ensure that applicants are offered work on their own merits and are not discriminated against because of disability. Therefore, a candidate can use the fact that an employer has made pre-employment health enquiries as evidence to support a claim for disability discrimination. However, if an employee needs their employer to make reasonable adjustments for them they may need to disclose their medical condition. If this is not done, then it is unlikely that the employer can be held liable for their failure to make reasonable adjustments; given that they were unaware of the condition.