Care homes have been warned of the legal risks of imposing mandatory vaccinations on staff through changes to their contracts.
Speaking during a Ridouts Webinar yesterday, solicitor, Gemma Nicholas (pictured), said a ‘jab for job’ contract could violate the Public Health Control of Disease Act 1984 which stops individuals being forced to undergo medical treatment, including vaccinations.
Gemma advised care home providers to “think carefully about vaccinations policies” and avoid introducing “blanket policies”.
The solicitor said staff who are dismissed by providers for refusing vaccines purely out of choice could claim unfair or constructive dismissal or discrimination.
In their defence, employees could claim they are acting on their duties to employees and service users under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which requires businesses to ensure a safe workplace and environment, and to take reasonable steps to reduce workplace risks.
“The requirement to get vaccinated could be deemed a reasonable management instruction refusal which could amount to a fair reason for dismissal,” Gemma said.
However, she added constructive dismissal could be claimed if employees feel forced or pressurised into having a vaccination.
The solicitor added that staff citing reasons such as allergies, pregnancy or religious beliefs, for refusing vaccination could be protected under the Equality Act 2010.
“It may be better to persuade rather than compel staff to get a vaccination by appealing to their hearts and minds, seeking to understand why they are reluctant and what their reservations are; responding with empathy and providing factual information and addressing the issue of fake news with regard to the vaccine and encouraging staff to make their own informed decisions about whether to be vaccinated or not,” Gemma said.
“Until the issue has gone before a court or tribunal no-one can provide a firm answer on whether a discrimination or unfair dismissal claim can be successful in cases where there has been a refusal to have the vaccine.”