British companies are beginning to draw up “no jab, no job” contracts after the government yesterday admitted it was “up to businesses” to decide how to enforce vaccination requirements.
Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes across the country, said it will not hire new staff who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine on non-medical grounds.
Several UK law firms, which declined to be named, added that said some companies were also looking at requiring existing employees to have coronavirus jabs before returning to the office.
Charlie Mullins, founder of the London plumbing firm, said lawyers were currently working on making vaccinations against coronavirus mandatory for its 400-strong workforce.
“We’re going to change their contracts to say — whatever the wording might be — that you’re required to have a vaccine. It’s going to be standard,” said Mullins.
However, his comments raised questions over the legality of “no jab, no job” policies, with the government insisting companies could not make vaccinations mandatory.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said earlier this month that “taking a vaccine is not mandatory and it would be discriminatory to force somebody to take one”.
Boris Johnson has also ruled out the introduction of “domestic vaccine passports” for entry to venues such as cinemas, nightclubs and pubs on moral grounds.
However, vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said yesterday that “its up to businesses what they do” to enforce vaccine requirements. He had previously warned that the use of domestic vaccine passports would be “wrong”.
More than 16m people in the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine, with latest data showing the jabs not only prevent against serious disease but may reduce transmission by up to two thirds.
The CBI business group has said there is no case for forcing employees to be vaccinated before entering the workplace, adding that businesses were “committed to doing everything they could to inform and engage their employees on the benefits of the vaccine”.
The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 specifically states that members of the public cannot be forced to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations.
Employment lawyers have also cast doubt on the legality of “no jab, no job” policies.
Sarah Calderwood, employment lawyer at Slater Heelis, told City A.M. that though employers should offer to provide immunisations to those who are not already immunised, “employees are at liberty to refuse immunisation”.
“If employers want to make the Covid vaccine a contractual requirement, changes in the terms of the contract would need to be agreed by staff,” she added.
“Employers enforcing this change without employees’ express and implied agreement would be in breach of contract and employees would be entitled to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.”
Philip Richardson, partner, and head of employment law at Stephensons added that “no jab, no job” contracts were “a controversial approach” that could “raise claims on the grounds of discrimination, if not for unfair dismissal”.
“While this policy isn’t in the pipeline for many businesses, there will be many conversations taking place to establish how and when businesses can invite their staff back into the workplace safely,” he told City A.M.