Requiring employees to get vaccinated as part of so-called “no jab, no job” policies is “discriminatory”, Downing Street has said, despite mandatory vaccinations receiving support from several government ministers.
“Taking a vaccine is not mandatory and it would be discriminatory to force somebody to take one,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson told journalists this afternoon.
Several high-profile companies have said they will write compulsory Covid jabs into employment contracts after Pimlico Plumbers told City A.M. last month that it would be the first to do so.
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,” Mullins told City A.M.
But his comments raised questions over the legality of “no jab, no job” policies, with employment lawyers insisting companies could not make vaccinations mandatory.
“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,” said Sarah Calderwood, employment lawyer at Slater Heelis.
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.
The issue is understood to be at the centre of a heated row within the Cabinet, with some ministers arguing in favour of the scheme.
“If there is clear evidence that vaccines prevent transmission, the next stage is to make sure more and more people are taking up the vaccine,” one government source told The Telegraph.
More than 12m 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.
But Nadhim Zahawi, the government’s vaccines tsar, has publicly voiced his opposition to Mullins’ “no jab, no job” policy. “We’re not that sort of country and I think it’s important we do it by persuasion,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last month.
Zahawi has also quashed suggestions the government is considering plans to introduce vaccine passports to allow the tourism sector to reopen.
The vaccines deployment minister had previously said that the government was “looking at the technology” to create vaccine passports, but yesterday ruled out the plans, saying it was “not how we do things” in Britain.