More than one in five employers plan to implement a ‘no jab no job’ policy in the year ahead for both new and existing staff, research has found, despite Covid restrictions ending earlier this year.
A YouGov poll of 1,074 senior decision makers, conducted for Acas at the end of March, found 22 per cent of employers wanted to make Covid 19 vaccination a condition of employment for new staff.
Similarly, 21 per cent said they wanted to make vaccination mandatory for existing employees.
Susan Clews, chief executive of Acas, cautioned employers that mandatory vaccines was a “very tricky area of employment law” and said it was “always best to support staff to get the vaccine rather than insisting that they get it”.
“It’s a good idea for employers to get legal advice before bringing in a vaccine policy,” she added.
This was echoed by Jules Quinn, employment partner at King & Spalding, who advised that mandatory vaccine policies could lead to challenges of discriminatory conduct.
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Individuals with underlying health conditions, pregnant workers and members of the BAME community are among the groups likely to be disproportionately affected by any vaccine mandate, and could seek to claim indirect discrimination as a result, says Quinn.
“It will then be a question, on a case by case basis, as to whether the employer has a legitimate aim in insisting on vaccination and can that aim be achieved by more proportionate means which have less of an impact on candidates and employees,” she said.
Alan Price, CEO at Bright HR, added that employers implementing a ‘no jab, no job’ policy would need to make adjustment for those with reasonable grounds for refusal or risk discrimination and constructive dismissal claims.
There is also the issue of contracts, said David Jepps, employment partner at Keystone Law, which employers will have to change if they want to introduce a vaccine mandate on existing employees. This can be straightforward if staff agree to the change, but where they don't, “wider employment law issues arise”, he said.
Employers also need to consider the impact a ‘no jab, no job’ policy could have on recruitment. “At the start of the year, many employers were actively considering ‘no jab, no job’, but the pattern emerging as summer approaches is that such plans are largely being abandoned to improve retention and recruitment in a highly competitive jobs market,” Jepps said.
There are currently no laws in the UK requiring employees to have the vaccine after the government in England removed previous requirements for care home, health and social care staff on 15 March 2022.
The Acas poll found that just over half of business decision makers said they did not intend to introduce a vaccine mandate for new staff (52 per cent) or existing staff (55 per cent), while a fifth said they did not know or were not sure if a mandate would be introduced for new staff (21 per cent) or existing staff (19 per cent).
Of those polled, 4 per cent and 5 per cent said they did not want to say whether vaccination would become mandatory for new or existing staff respectively.