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Health and social care staff could keep their jobs even if not vaccinated

Mandatory vaccination policies and your employment rights


During the pandemic the government passed legislation which made it mandatory for health and social care staff to be vaccinated. The Regulations imposed a deadline for NHS staff such as Doctors and Nurses to be vaccinated by April, failing which they could have lost their jobs.

Thousands of such staff have not been vaccinated and it looked like an already hard-pressed health service could lose those.

The Government announced something of a U turn at the end of January 2022 saying that the requirement for such staff to be vaccinated is being reconsidered. It therefore now looks like thousands of staff will not lose their jobs or be disciplined, and those who have already left will be able to return. This announcement was put on the basis that the severity of the impact of Omicron is reducing and there is now widespread immunity.

This begs the question of whether employers whether they are in the health field or not will be able to insist that staff are vaccinated?

Although it will no longer be required by legislation it is open to an employer to make vaccination mandatory in their workplace. However, they would be very brave to do so. Much of this is untested by the Courts and tribunals so no one can know for sure which side they would come down on. But existing case law and legislation suggests that employers who wanted to make it mandatory would have to have a very clear policy, supported by a robust risk assessment, which justifies the decision, shows how it is proportionate and balances the needs of Covid control with human rights and equality considerations.

The employer would also have to tread very carefully around people who may be refusing the vaccine on disability or religious belief grounds. If an employer did not accommodate those considerations, they could very likely face claims for discrimination.

In summary, given that the Government are likely to remove the requirement for vaccination in certain health or care related occupations it would be a brave employer who would still insist upon it, and they must be prepared to fully justify it. The likelihood is that most now won’t.

However, there is nothing to stop employers educating and encouraging staff to get vaccinated, although they should be careful to avoid anything which amounts to discrimination or undue pressure.

If you are an employee and are unsure of your rights in terms of your employer’s vaccination policy or the mandatory vaccination regulations that affect your role, you should seek professional legal advice from a solicitor who will be able to advise based upon your personal circumstances. You can search for a solicitor who specialises in employment law for free on our website, and without having to provide your personal data. Our site has lots of guidance on how to find the right lawyer for you and how to pay for their services. Sometimes you may not have to find the money yourself and our site guidance explains why, read our guidance on how to pay your legal fees.