Can employees be forced to have the Covid-19 vaccine?
Yes! Well that’s the case if the employee is a frontline NHS worker anyway.
The Health Secretary has just announced that frontline NHS staff in England will be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to continue in their role.
In a move similar to those working in care homes, the vaccine will be made mandatory unless an exemption applies.
The decision comes following a period of consultation which discussed whether the Covid vaccine and flu jab should be made mandatory, with only the first being made compulsory. The main reason for the decision was of course patient safety, but not everyone agrees with the result.
Currently there are around 80,000 – 100,000 unvaccinated NHS workers and no doubt the country will lose some key workers who refuse to be vaccinated. The new rules only apply to NHS workers in England; with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland having the devolved power to make their own decisions in due course.
Of course, not everyone can get the vaccine and therefore various exemptions will apply. Such examples include those: – Who do not have face-to-face contact with patients; – Who have a severe reaction to the available vaccines or a component ingredient; and – Who had a severe reaction to the first dose.
Individuals who are clinically able to have the vaccine, but refuse to do so, will not be able to continue working in a face-to-face role dealing with patients. This includes those who refuse the vaccine based on religious beliefs or because they are pregnant – current guidance is that the vaccine will not have a material impact on pregnant women and therefore they are not exempt.
Consequences of failing to be vaccinated
Ultimately, if a frontline NHS worker refuses to have the vaccine without a qualifying for an exemption then they could find that they are either redeployed or as a last resort, dismissed.
It is likely that the rules on fair dismissals will not cease to apply and therefore the NHS could face unfair dismissal claims should they not follow the correct dismissal procedures.
If you would like any further advice on how the new legislation will impact you, or you would like clarification on unfair dismissals, please get in touch with a member of the team on 01752 292201.