Insisting my employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 – is it legal?

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The current NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme offers a free vaccine to everyone in the UK. With around 2/3 of adults in the country now having been vaccinated and the remainder due to be offered their first by 1st of July, many employers have expressed a desire for their staff to be vaccinated as part of new workplace policies and conditions.

However, At present, vaccination against COVID-19 is not compulsory and employers have no legal right to compel workers to be vaccinated.

Although we would encourage employers to support employees in getting their vaccination when offered, it is also important that employees who do not wish to be vaccinated are listened to and any individual concerns or circumstances discussed.

Under current health and safety legislation, employers do have a duty to protect the health of employees, anyone on business premises and anyone else affected by the business, however existing vaccination guidelines state that employees are at liberty to refuse immunisation. This piece of health and safety legislation gives employers justification for encouraging their employees to be vaccinated.

Advice displayed on reputable websites such as ACAS and CIPD is as below


“It is best to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement. If an employer feels that vaccination is a necessary requirement for someone to do their job then they should work with staff or the workplaces recognised trade union to agree to this.”

We would advise employers to support employees through:

  • Open discussions about the vaccine
  • Giving employees access to up-to-date government information regarding vaccines so they can make an informed decision
  • Give paid time off to employees attending vaccination appointments
  • Support anyone off sick with vaccine side effects (perhaps introducing a COVID-19 vaccination specific sick pay policy)
  • Employers who are particularly keen for employees to be immunised could write a non-contractual policy outlining immunisation benefits and how the business will support them

Can I insist that new employees are vaccinated?

In the health and care sectors, employers may consider making a vaccination a requirement of employment for new employees, but again consideration of those who for medical or religious reasons cannot be vaccinated would need to be taken into account. If you can argue that there are no potential adjustments you can make, you could look at the requirement as being an intrinsic part of the role.

If your business does not operate in the Health and Care Sectors then it is not advised that you make Covid-19 vaccination a requirement of employment as this may raise claims of discrimination.

If you and your business need more support on dealing with workplace COVID-19 vaccination policies and questions, please do get in touch on 0117 439 0119 or email us at info@harwood-hr.co.uk

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