UK employers can’t force their employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, but they should inform their workforce about the vaccination programme and encourage them to be vaccinated.
In early December a new Opinium poll suggested that more than a third of the public (35%) are unlikely to take a COVID-19 vaccine when available, while 48% worry it will not be safe, 47% worry it will not be effective and 55% worry that it will have side-effects.
Jeya Thiruchelvam, Managing Editor at XpertHR says, “Many people have concerns about the vaccine, so employers must recognise this and tread carefully when the roll-out moves to people of working age. Encouraging employees to take the vaccine is fine – but forcing them is not.
“If employees do not agree to a vaccine, employers are limited in what they can do. They could say that refusing a vaccination may lead to disciplinary action, but such a policy is likely to cause employee relation problems.
“Disciplinary action for refusing to take the vaccine could risk complaints relating to discrimination because of religion or belief, disability and age; constructive dismissal; and human rights issues. So we recommend employers take a cautious approach and encourage take up of the vaccine through education and awareness, but ensure employees understand it is a personal decision with no pressure from the organisation.”