Over the past year, Covid-19 has devasted communities around the globe and changed lives irrevocably. However, some comfort has been provided in the form of the vaccines now available to the public.
The NHS is currently rolling out the vaccines with the government hoping that all adults will be vaccinated by Autumn 2021.
While the vaccines have been largely welcomed, not everyone feels the same way and there is no legal obligation for anyone to take the vaccine. If a member of your staff is offered the vaccine and decides not to take it, what are your and their rights and responsibilities?
London plumbing firm Plimico Plumber recently announced plans to change its workers’ contracts to require them to be vaccinated against Covid-19 however some legal concerns have been raised on the issue and the majority of other employers have seemingly taken a wait-and-see approach to the situation.
The law is on the side of the employee in this situation; under The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment which includes vaccinations. Staff members with philosophical or religious reasons for not getting the vaccine could also be protected under The Equality Act 2010.
Other staff members also deserve consideration and if they are vulnerable but still working, a discussion may have to be had with all parties involved. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 doesn’t contain provisions for this situation although require workplaces to be as safe as possible for all staff. This may involve separating staff members who are vulnerable and those who are refusing the vaccine on separate shifts and adhering to government guidance, which many stores are doing already.
Workers union USDAW believes that the best approach is to discuss the issue with staff. Speaking to ConvenienceStore.co.uk, general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “USDAW has been negotiating with employers for time off and support to get vaccinated, for those workers who are eligible. We don’t believe that making vaccination of staff compulsory would be the right approach. The focus needs to be on educating and encouraging take-up for everyone who is able to be vaccinated. Usdaw is encouraging our members to get vaccinated and urging the government to prioritise public facing key workers who are delivering essential services.”
Currently the vaccine is being given to:
- people aged 80 and over
- some people aged 70 and over
- some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
- people who live or work in care homes
- health and social care workers
The government is currently assessing priorities for the next wave of vaccines with many urging the prioritisation of retail workers, including a petition for it gaining more than 38,000 signatures. That petition can be signed here.