The UK COVID-19 vaccination programme is underway and it’s only a matter of time before it’s available to the wider population. Although the vaccine could be especially beneficial for those who need to work on company premises some are still sceptical over the vaccine and may not wish to take it. This could potentially be problematic for employers if this prevents employees from fulfilling their roles. But can employers legally ask employees to be vaccinated?
In England and Wales, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 gives the government the power to prevent, control and mitigate the spread of an infection. However, this act specifically prevents a person from being forced to undertake medical treatment, i.e. a vaccine. Therefore, to date there is no legal power to force the COVID-19 vaccine on the public and the government have confirmed that there are no current plans on making the vaccine mandatory.
There may be specific workplace grounds to mandate a vaccine as a condition of employment. However, employers must be careful in ensuring it is essential and not just part of COVID safe work arrangements. The bar for this is likely to be very high and limited to healthcare workers and those providing similar services.