Jabs for Jobs


22 March 2021

By Josh Fresle

Exploring whether employers can introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

There are reports that some firms will be introducing a 'No Jab, No Job' policy, which would require all of their employees to have taken the vaccine against COVID-19.

A national poll conducted, by the Chartered Management Institute of more than 1,000 managers, found that More than 50% of managers in the UK want to be allowed to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for employees returning to work.

There is currently no legislation in place in the UK on mandatory vaccinations, and the UK Government has confirmed that it will not introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for UK residents. So, can an employer require you an employee take the vaccine against COVID-19?

A policy requiring employees to be vaccinated could constitute a reasonable management instruction. This is dependent on the circumstances of each employee and should be assessed on a case by case basis. For example, it may be a reasonable management instruction to request an employee who cannot socially distance within the workplace, such as in the healthcare sector. It would prove difficult to argue that a vaccination is a reasonable management instruction in majority of other sectors.

There is great difficulty for employers to insist on mandatory vaccinations under current workplace legislation as there is a real risk of discriminating against workers who cannot or refuse to be vaccinated.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of a protected characteristic (these include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation). There is a danger that a "no jab, no job" policy could discriminate under one or more of these protected characteristics, for example if an employee refuses to take the vaccination based on their religious beliefs. A further example is that the vaccine is not routinely offered to pregnant women. It would be difficult to manage a scenario where a woman refuses the vaccine, but is yet to reveal her pregnancy to her employer.

The safer position for employers to take is to promote the vaccine rather than to try to enforce mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19.

Any disciplinary or dismissal action arising from an employee's refusal to take the vaccine should also be very carefully considered.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

For further information, please get in touch with our employment discrimination solicitors in Chelmsford, or fill in our online enquiry form for a quick response.