Pimlico Plumbers has announced plans to spend upwards of £1m on vaccinating its staff, as it plots to roll out a “no jab, no job” policy.
Speaking to City A.M, founder Charlie Mullins said: “Once [the vaccine’s] out there and it becomes private, I’m happy to pay for all our staff to have it.
“No vaccine, no job… When we go off to Africa and Caribbean countries, we have to have a jab for malaria — we don’t think about it, we just do it. So why would we accept something within our country that’s going to kill us when we can have a vaccine to stop it?”
Pimlico Plumbers has fared well during the coronavirus crisis, raking in turnover of £43.27m in the 12 months to June, with Mullins telling City A.M. the company was currently trading around six per cent above last year’s figures.
The entrepreneur said he has set aside £800,000 to pay for the vaccinations, but that he was willing to pay up to £1m for each round of jabs that new coronavirus strains might require.
The NHS has stressed that coronavirus vaccines will be free to all members of the public and is aiming to have all over-18s offered their first dose by the autumn.
Scientists are currently unsure whether Covid immunity will also prevent transmission of the virus, meaning people who have been vaccinated may still be able to pass it onto others.
But the plumbing tycoon, who revealed he had contracted the virus with “mild symptoms” last year, said lawyers were currently working on writing the requirement into employee contracts 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,” he said.
Mullins added that anybody applying for a job at Pimlico Plumbers without showing proof of vaccination would be turned down for an interview.
“We won’t be employing people in the future unless they’ve got a vaccine,” he said. “If they want to sit at home and not lead a normal life then, don’t have a vaccine.”
There are currently no statutory provisions under which employees must be required to become vaccinated.
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.
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.”
Mullins has previously faced a high-profile court battle, after a former Pimlico Plumber worker claimed he was owed £74,000 in unpaid statutory annual leave.
While the Court of Appeal initially ruled in favour of the worker, the case was later dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Mullins raised eyebrows last summer after he revealed around 30 Pimlico Plumbers staff had lost their jobs after refusing to return to the company’s Lambeth headquarters following England’s first national lockdown.
The firm is currently trialling a “swab at the job” rapid Covid testing scheme, which sees staff tested before entering the workplace each morning.
Mullins told City A.M. that so far no staff have tested positive, but that employees who do will not be paid to self-isolate.
“We don’t do work from home. I don’t believe in work from home —it’s not the way forward… We don’t pay people not to go to work, we’re not the government.”