Pimlico Plumbers said it would be prepared to spend upwards of £1m on Covid jabs for its workforce if the vaccine were to become available privately. It expects to enforce a ‘no jab, no job’ policy for new starters.
In an interview with business newspaper City AM, chief executive Charlie Mullins said he would be happy to pay for all of the company’s staff to have a Covid-19 vaccination if they were to become available privately.
An employment lawyer, meanwhile, has warned that firms could become embroiled in legal difficulties if they were to dismiss staff for refusing to take a vaccine.
Mullins said that those who refused to have the vaccination would not be employed by the company, stating, “no vaccine, no job”.
A blog post by Pimlico Plumbers asserted, however, that existing staff would not be forced to take the vaccine.
Mullins told City AM: “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?”
“We won’t be employing people in the future unless they’ve got a vaccine … If they want to sit at home and not lead a normal life then, don’t have a vaccine.”
He said the London-based plumbing company’s lawyers were working on writing the requirement into employee contracts for its 450-strong workforce, and anyone who attended a job interview at the firm would need to show proof of vaccination.
The blog post underlined that no existing employee “should be forced to have a jab, and as a company not only can we not do that, but we would never advocate such a policy; it would be an outrage”.
The company has set aside £800,000 to pay for vaccinations, but Mullins said he was willing to pay up to £1m for each round of jabs that new strains of coronavirus might require.
Government guidance currently stipulates that the vaccine cannot be bought privately, stating it is “only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination”.
A spokesperson for Pimlico Plumbers said the company would urge current staff to accept a Covid-19 vaccination, but would not dismiss them if they refused.
The government has said there are no plans to make the Covid-19 vaccination a legal requirement.
Jonathan Chamberlain an employment partner at law firm Gowling WLG, said workers would likely have a strong basis for an employment tribunal claim if their employer dismissed them for refusing a Covid-19 jab.
He said: “This is not the way to go. For a start it doesn’t achieve anything: the coronavirus restrictions apply regardless of vaccination status; it makes no difference to what an employee’s allowed to do if they’re vaccinated, so how can any private employer say their staff must be treated?
“Employees can refuse and, if they get fired as a result, they’re likely to have strong claims against their employer, potentially some very expensive ones. As the law currently stands, not even the government can insist the general public get vaccinated so the courts are unlikely to have much sympathy with a private employer who tries to force their staff to have the jab.”
Earlier this week, Pimlico Plumbers announced the roll-out of a company-funded Covid-19 testing programme, following a trial involving its new cohort of apprentices.
The lateral flow tests give a result in around 15 minutes, and will initially be offered to staff who have a high degree of customer and public contact, including security staff, engineers and managers.
All visitors to its head office will be tested before being granted access.
Mullins said: “Covid testing is an ambitious operation, but it’s also a complete no-brainer and one that all responsible companies should be doing while the government gets on with the critical business of vaccinating the entire UK population.”