Can employers refuse work to employees who are not vaccinated?

The Helens

The Helens

Our previous blog highlighted the risk of unfair dismissal claims should an employer insist employees have a COVID-19 vaccine in order to continue employment.

However, where employees are required to be in contact with members of the public, clients or colleagues but have refused the vaccine, the decision to dismiss may be considered fair on the grounds of either ‘some other substantial reason‘ or conduct.

As with all dismissals, attention will be paid to the process. This includes the need for a full investigation into the reasons for the employee’s refusal – personal belief? allergy? fear of needles? just didn’t get around to it?

Tribunals should not over-ride the judgement of the employer provided a fair, balanced and informed process has taken place prior to dismissal, a process that has taken into consideration the needs of the business, clients and all other employees.

Are employers then required to allow these employees to continue to work from home? The same judgement applies – if all employees are being required to return to the office, this will include those who have refused the vaccine without a substantial reason not to do so.

The grey-ist (yes – I just made up a word) – area will be identifying whether the employee’s decision is protected by the Equality Act 2010 under ‘religious or other belief’ – (let’s not forget Veganism is covered – which is relevant in this case as many vaccines contain animal products).

The employer will need to be confident their decision to dismiss was ‘proportionate’ in their ‘legitimate aim’ to provide a safe work place for all employees, clients and colleagues.

The lack of case studies makes this yet another contributing factor to the vast landscape of unknown we’re all trying to navigate.

Is it Friday yet?

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