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Employers warned not to force employees to take COVID-19 vaccine

Jeya Thiruchelvam, Managing Editor - XpertHR

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.”


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