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Can My Employer Insist I Take the Covid-19 Vaccine?

With the introduction this year of vaccinations for Covid-19, and the hope for society and economy to start returning to some type of normality, most businesses will be keen to see widespread vaccination, especially for their staff, in order to start their business recovery. 

Some businesses and sectors will be considering the operation of a Digital Vaccination Passport, which will also carry with it, issues relating to Privacy and Data Protection. 

Employers will also have to balance concerns of other employees who have legal rights under Health & Safety legislation, who may be very anxious about having to work with a colleague who refuses to be vaccinated.

Most people are generally optimistic about getting the vaccine, however, there are some who are not, e.g. those who, for certain health reasons, cannot take it, or others, who simply do not agree with taking it.  Current legislation does not entitle an employer to force or require all employees to be vaccinated. 

Whether your employer can insist you be vaccinated, will depend on the type of work you do, and, what your existing Terms and Conditions say.  If, for example, you work in a healthcare setting, that already requires compliance with recommended vaccination programmes, then it is likely you will be required to comply, unless you have a health reason that excuses you. 

Certainly, employers will be able to require evidence of vaccination when recruiting new employees, but again, where a candidate has a health condition exempting them, they could argue discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Where an employee cannot, or for good reasons, will not, comply with a vaccination requirement, an employer will be expected to make reasonable alternative arrangements to accommodate them, in so far as possible.  Certainly, any grievance or disciplinary action contemplated will have to be handled with extreme caution.

Employers should keep their internal policies and procedures up to date, to reflect current developments.  As always, communication between employer and employee is key, and ‘reasonableness’ will be expected, by both sides, in the months ahead.