Sajid Javid ‘looking at’ vaccine mandate for NHS staff
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Australia and neighbouring New Zealand are the latest to clamp down on Covid with matching vaccine mandates, one Jacinda Ardern admitted would create a “two-tier” society in her country. But the two nations have amongst the lowest Covid case rates in the developed world and could see UK politicians consider following their lead. Legal experts believe that while this could materialise on this side of the world, employers would face a fight to enforce it.
The Government has made vaccination mandatory in select healthcare settings that make them vital for protecting potentially vulnerable patients.
At present, this includes care homes only, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid is allegedly “moving towards” a general mandate for NHS staff.
In an interview with Sky News’ Kay Burley earlier this week, he said this would prompt the remaining five percent of staff yet to accept a vaccine to get theirs.
Employers would face a barrier if mandates spread beyond the healthcare realm, according to Roger James, a partner at employment law firm Ogletree Deakins.
He told Express.co.uk that they could not currently cite a “legal requirement” justifying attempts to sack unvaccinated employees.
Mr James said: “Firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated could lead to unfair dismissal cases, as well as claims of discrimination if the refusal is because of a religious belief or health issue.”
Employers committed to firing unvaccinated workers would have to provide airtight reasoning, he added.
He said: “To defend a claim, an employer would need to show it had a good reason for the dismissal.”
“There are not any reported cases on this issue yet, but it is possible employers could successfully defend certain cases.
“For example, it would not be surprising if the dismissal of an executive required to travel frequently to a country requiring vaccination certificates was found to be fair.
“Justifying the dismissal of a regular office worker, on the other hand, would be significantly more difficult.
“The employee would likely argue that dismissal was not necessary, and the employer could have instead considered alternative safety measures, such as regular lateral flow testing or mask-wearing.”
Ultimately, Mr James said only time would tell how a vaccine mandate would pan out in the UK.
He said: “Most employers considering this issue at the moment are shying away from mandatory vaccinations, but there are a few employers bucking the trend.
“Time will tell whether any employees bring successful claims against them, or indeed whether more employers go down the mandatory vaccination route.
“The trend is certainly moving towards mandatory vaccinations in other countries – such as the US and Australia – where legislation enables employers to take a firmer approach.”
“I, for one, would not be surprised if that trend reaches our shores.”
While stricter Covid measures like mandates have sparked outrage in the US, this might be less likely in the UK.
Recent polling from YouGov found that most Brits remain supportive of many of the pandemic measures introduced by the Government.
For example, 81 percent backed masks on public transport, a further 76 percent backed masks in shops, and 59 percent supported the two-metre social distancing rule.
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