COMPANIES must be wary of implementing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy and mindful of other employment law factors that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edward Hughes Solicitors, based in Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, revealed they have been inundated with calls and emails from businesses unsure whether they can legally introduce a blanket rule insisting any potential employee has the COVID-19 vaccine.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland says it may well be legal in the future for companies to insist on new recruits having a vaccination, while Welsh Government maintains its stance that nobody can be forced to have it.
Richard Johnson, a partner at Edward Hughes, encouraged firms to clarify their position with staff and map the next steps forward, including up-to-date risk assessments.
“There are sectors where having the vaccine would be deemed vital to a role, such as care and health and beauty,” he said.
“But there may be other arenas where it is not as crucial – for example, someone who is working alone at home full time, or outdoors and away from colleagues – where there is less risk of contracting the virus.
“The pandemic has been unchartered territory for all industries and the landscape is something of a minefield at present, so we urge employers to take advice.”
Forcing existing staff to have the vaccine could be an even greater concern for companies, says Richard, and there are other circumstances to consider, including sick leave and absence due to ‘long Covid’, the need for regular welfare meetings, flexibility, and the possibility of tribunal claims for discrimination.
“A lot of organisations already comply with health and safety rules and will have implemented new social distancing restrictions in lockdown ahead of staff returning to the workplace – in whatever form that might take,” said Richard.
“Employers have a duty to ensure and provide a safe environment for staff, but a blanket policy would raise serious issues for those people who are opposed to having the vaccine for religious, ethical or medical reasons.”
He added: “There is a lot to be discussed and digested, and a long road ahead for companies wondering how they will tackle this problem in the months ahead.”
For more information and to contact Edward Hughes Solicitors, call 01745 343661 or visit www.qualitysolicitors.com/edwardhughes. You can follow them on social media at @QSEH_Solicitors.