London Daily

London Daily News
Monday, Oct 25, 2021

Bosses battle over rights and wrongs of ‘no Covid jab, no job’

Bosses battle over rights and wrongs of ‘no Covid jab, no job’

While big-name US firms can compel their staff to be vaccinated against Covid, in the UK the issue is a legal and moral minefield
After a turbulent 18 months running an online retail business during the pandemic, Julie Jones is now facing a new challenge.

One of her eight employees has decided not to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The company, based in the north-west of England, works in a small office space, and having one unvaccinated team member is causing health and financial concerns for Jones (not her real name) and her other staff.

“It’s a difficult situation. I’m between a rock and a hard place. I would really rather she was jabbed, but I feel it is personal choice,” Julie said.

“It’s not a healthcare setting, and I don’t feel it’s my place as an employer to ask her to do something medical she isn’t comfortable with. But I am also very concerned about the potential impact on the business if she went off with Covid and the rest of us had to isolate.”

Despite this, Jones has decided not to tell her employees they need to be fully vaccinated to enter the office, over fears it could lead to the loss of a valued team member.

“She’s a fantastic employee and I would rather take the risk of her not being jabbed than risk an argument and her potentially leaving over it,” she said.

Thousands of businesses and organisations of all sizes are weighing up how best to bring workers safely back to their desks after many months of remote working. They are also aware that making vaccination demands of their staff is a moral, and legal, minefield.

Like Jones, some employers fear a “no jab, no job” policy could at best risk resignations, or at worst leave them open to legal claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination. As a result, companies are divided over how best to protect staff during a widespread return to the office.

Many workers have said they would feel safer in the workplace if they knew that other colleagues were also fully immunised. Almost a quarter (24%) of business managers said they would only be prepared to work with colleagues who had been double-jabbed, according to a recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute. The poll found employees aged 55 and over were more likely than younger people to say they would only want to share a work space with the fully vaccinated.

Large American corporates have embraced the policy of mandatory vaccinations more enthusiastically than their British counterparts. US financial firms, which have been the loudest in expressing their desire to get workers back to the office, were also among the first to tell their teams that only fully vaccinated staff could return to their headquarters.

Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley will only allow double-jabbed employees into its New York office when they return in September; others will have to work at home.

Vanguard, one of the world’s largest investment firms, is approaching the issue differently; it is offering US employees a $1,000 (£718) “Covid incentive” if they can show proof of vaccination by October.

Following a surge in Covid cases in the US because of the spread of the Delta variant, tech giant Google has just told its employees they will have to be vaccinated to return to its corporate buildings. Chief executive Sundar Pichai informed workers the policy would initially be implemented in the US before being adopted globally. Other US tech firms including Uber and Facebook have also said that employees must be vaccinated.

In the UK, however, making vaccination a condition of return to the workplace could leave employers open to accusations of discrimination or even unfair dismissal, according to employment lawyers.

The government had to pass legislation in order to compel care homes to make sure all workers in England, without medical exemption, were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and this will come into force in November.

Demanding workers are vaccinated is “arguably a breach of human rights: you have a right not to go through a medical procedure,” said Kathryn Evans, head of employment law at Trethowans. “You’ve got a whole raft of issues, starting from the work contract not requiring someone to get vaccinated, to claims of unfair dismissal, to discrimination.”

The employment rights enshrined in law for UK workers mean employers are expected to tread carefully.

Sharon Birch, who owns Footprints Learning for Life nursery in Hartlepool, has favoured encouragement over compulsion for her employees. She would prefer her staff to be vaccinated, to protect both themselves, their colleagues and some of the more vulnerable children they look after.One of Birch’s 35-strong team initially decided not to get vaccinated, while her youngest employees are still waiting to be called up for their appointments.

“I don’t want to enforce it. I sat and had a conversation with one staff member and discussed the reasons why, not necessarily to convince her, but to understand her motives. We discussed the benefits of the vaccine and she has now gone and had her first one,” she said.

“I think we have a responsibility to the families that we look after to give them the best protection that we can, by being responsible”.
Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
×