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Can your employer force you to take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted on: Feb 04,2021

Does your employer have a NO JAB, NO JOB Policy?

In the guide Working safely during Coronavirus, ACAS says that Employers should support staff in getting the coronavirus vaccine, but they cannot force staff to be vaccinated. Basically, your Employer does not have a legal right to make vaccination a requirement at work.

Government guidelines on Working safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres says that a reason for refusal to be vaccinated could be protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. It is possible for your Employer to indirectly discriminate against you if  you are treated differently to your vaccinated colleagues. Different treatment could be letting vaccinated staff return to work and barring  unvaccinated staff from work, or international travel.

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) protects employees against discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. While a small number of religious groups disapprove of vaccinations, most religions do not disagree with vaccination in principle. However, as a result of other beliefs of those religions – such as not eating or using animal-based products – followers may refuse the vaccination because of its ingredients (e.g. pork gelatine).

Vegans may also disagree with vaccinations that contain animal-based ingredients or have been tested on animals. Ethical veganism has been found by an Employment Tribunal (ET) to amount to a belief, capable of being protected under the EqA.

Some people with recognised protected beliefs may refuse the COVID-19 vaccination because of that belief. People who follow a particular religion may still choose to get the vaccination even if there are religious arguments against it, and ethical vegans may make the same choice even if the vaccine does contain animal products or has been tested on animals. This does not mean that those individuals no longer have protected beliefs, or that other people who choose to refuse the vaccination cannot be protected.

How can vaccination be introduced at work?

Your Employer has a duty under obligations under the Health and Safety at Work (etc) Act 1974, to reduce health risks to employees and others to a level which is as low as reasonably practicable. This means that they may consider the vaccination during a  COVID-19 risk assessments, as a measure to control the risk of contracting the virus at work. Employers may decide, following such a risk assessment, that having a vaccinated workforce would be necessary and reasonable in reducing the risk. Therefore, an instruction to have the vaccine could be regarded as a ‘reasonable instruction’ by your employer. Although, vaccination is not compulsory anywhere in the UK and so this may not be a reasonable request.

Can my employer ask for evidence that I’ve been vaccinated?

Your employer cannot force you to disclose your personal information. Information about your vaccination status is likely to be considered special category data. This means that your Employer would have to show a particular GDPR exemption for processing it [See Your Rights under GDPR]

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