Can employers make the Coronavirus vaccine mandatory?

3rd February 2021

The UK Government has said it will not make the vaccine against COVID-19 mandatory, however there is still the question whether employers will be able to insist that employees have the vaccine. As many employees are now working from home, it is still unclear whether employers can make it a condition when they return to the office.

There is the possibility that employees who have not been vaccinated could be asked by their employer to have the vaccine. This could be considered a reasonable requirement on the part of the employer. There are also specific circumstances that should be considered and taken into account when deciding if this is or is not a reasonable step. For example, if you are working in the healthcare profession working with vulnerable or high-risk groups, this would clearly benefit the individual who is more likely to come into contact with someone that is infected. In some circumstances, employees could even be dismissed if they refuse the vaccine as it would pose a risk to themselves, patients or service users.

As long as employers can evidence that they have undertaken a Risk Assessment mitigating the risk of COVID-19, they could mandate the vaccination as a Health and Safety requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This is due to employers having the duty of care to ensure a safe working environment and for employees that come into close contact with the clinically vulnerable, it should be considered as essential.

For specialist employment law advice, please get in touch with Kim McDonald by calling 01392 424242 or email . Kim deals with all aspects of employment law, acting for both applicants and respondents in the Employment Tribunal. Kim also advises employers and employees on both contentious and non-contentious matters.