Companies are allowed to introduce a requirement for members of staff to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace, a minister has suggested, but there would be no new government legislation creating a vaccine mandate.
When asked on Sky News whether he thought it was a good idea that people be double vaccinated before they go back to the workplace, transport minister Grant Shapps said: “Yes I think it’s a good idea and yes some companies are going to require it.”
But, Shapps added: “We’re not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office.”
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His statements echoed those made by foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who told The Telegraph that requiring staff to be double vaccinated before returning to the workplace was a “smart policy”.
However, experts have cautioned against employers taking a “broad brush” approach to vaccination requirements.
Outside of care homes in England, where the government is introducing specific legislation, the employment tribunal remains the ultimate authority on whether employers can require staff to be vaccinated, said Andrew Willis, head of legal at Croner.
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“Comments from government ministers will not be taken into consideration during [a tribunal’s] assessment,” he added.
Instead, every claim relating to a refusal to have the vaccine would be “entirely dependent on the specific facts around that claim”, and employers that take any action against an employee for not being vaccinated face a high risk of a claim if they can not show their mandate was reasonable.
“Circumstances can differ so greatly from employer to employer that a broad brush approach isn’t suitable. Every employer considering whether to make the vaccine mandatory in their business needs to assess their individual risk,” said Willis.
Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said employers should still encourage staff to have the vaccine when offered, but also warned that making the vaccination compulsory could be discriminatory.
“There will be a small minority of people who don’t get the vaccine either because they can’t for medical reasons or choose not to for other reasons, and employers must be careful not to stigmatise or discriminate against them,” he said.
Instead, employers should highlight the benefits of the vaccine and be flexible about working hours or provide paid time off to enable people to attend vaccination appointments, he said.