Compulsory vaccinations - can workers be forced to be vaccinated?

Together we are Forbes

Construction & Infrastructure Article

15 September, 2021

No legal requirement currently exists for workers to be vaccinated, with the exemption of care workers. Many businesses, however, are considering introducing vaccination requirements, despite the fact that, in the absence of any legislation making vaccinations compulsory, any such policies could well be deemed unlawful due to discrimination risks.

Rather than introducing blanket policies, companies are advised to consider encouraging and supporting staff before looking to make any changes to their policies. Various employers are now offering full pay for the attendance of vaccination appointments and sickness absences relating to vaccine side-effects, in a bid to encourage workers to obtain the vaccine.

Risks of implementing a blanket policy:

Discrimination

Many employees may find that blanket policies discriminate against a number of their protected characteristics. Examples include:

Disability: Many disabled workers feel that the effects of the vaccine may impact their condition(s) or deter their mental health.

Age: The younger generation have expressed a strong concern regarding blood clots and the imbalance of protection from the vaccine and potential health risks/chance of hospitalisation.

Sex: Many females have expressed fertility concerns surrounding the vaccine.

Religion/ Belief: Many individuals have religious or philosophical beliefs that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.

Alternatives:

As opposed to introducing mandatory requirements, employers should encourage workers to obtain the vaccination. Employers may wish to consider communicating with and providing support to hesitant workers, to help understand any concerns that they may have, with a view to encouraging them to be fully vaccinated. As many businesses within the construction sector and beyond are already doing, employers should continue to offer regular lateral flow testing, PPE, and continue to implement social distancing measures, in order to limit the risk of the virus spreading.

Whilst employers can ask employees to share details about their vaccination status, this would be classed as 'special category data'; employers must proceed with added caution and ensure that they are thoroughly compliant with GDPR regulations.

For more information contact Abigail Lynch in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 0330 207 4469. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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