More than one in five employers plans to implement a ‘no jab no job’ policy over the coming year, despite there currently being no legal mandate in the UK for employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
A survey commissioned by Acas found that 22% of employers wanted to make coronavirus vaccination a condition of employment for new staff, while 21% wanted to make it mandatory for existing employees.
However, more than half of the 1,074 senior decision-makers polled by YouGov said they did not want to introduce a “no jab no job” policy in either case.
One in five did not know whether they would implement Covid jab policy for new starters or existing employees.
Acas chief executive Susan Clews said the issue of mandatory vaccines was a “very tricky area of employment law”.
The government tried to make Covid-19 vaccinations a condition of employment in the NHS and social care, but later scrapped the policy after strong opposition from NHS organisations and trade unions.
Earlier this year, Formula 1 announced a mandatory vaccination policy for all people in the paddock.
“Most workplaces are starting to navigate what working life should look like post-pandemic and it is clear from our poll that most employers have no plans to require staff to be vaccinated,” said Clews.
She noted that “it is always best to support staff to get the vaccine rather than insisting that they get it, and it’s a good idea for employers to get legal advice before bringing in a vaccine policy”.
Acas has advice on supporting staff to get the vaccine. It says that if an employer feels it is important for staff to be vaccinated, they should discuss the idea with trade unions and employees.
Consulting with staff can help to agree an appropriate employer Covid jab policy, support staff to protect their health, maintain good working relationships and avoid disputes in the future, suggested the workplace advice body.
It said employers should consider paying staff their usual rate of pay, rather than statutory sick pay, where they are off sick with side-effects following vaccination. They could also offer paid time off for vaccination appointments to encourage uptake.
The government has chosen to push decision making on this issue back down to employers, and so it is for employers to consider how they would justify a policy of compulsory vaccination if they were challenged” – Richard Fox, Kingsley Napley
Richard Fox, a senior employment lawyer at Kingsley Napley, said he suspected that, if asked about their plans for staff vaccinations at the beginning of the pandemic, fewer employers would have supported a mandatory vaccination policy because of the potential legal ramifications and risk of discrimination claims.
“Because of the ravages of the pandemic, and potentially as a result of developments elsewhere and in the UK, it seems some employers are now adopting a less cautious approach to this issue,” he said.
“It may be that employers in certain sectors, and those with operations in other jurisdictions where mandatory vaccination policies are more common than in the UK, may feel compulsory vaccines for staff are a wise precaution for the future. Bill Gates for one is predicting another coronavirus wave, albeit a different variant but probably more transmissible and more fatal than Covid-19.”
Fox said employers considering a mandatory jab policy should be aware of the risk of discrimination claims.
“The government has chosen to push decision making on this issue back down to employers, and so it is for employers to consider how they would justify a policy of compulsory vaccination if they were challenged. It is going to be very interesting to see how the tribunals will deal with these cases,” he said.
The number of new Covid-19 cases has been steadily falling after infections of the Omicron variant leapt in the winter and early spring. On 11 May there were 96 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the UK, down from 113 cases per 100,000, a week earlier.