“No Jab, No Job”: it may be legal (just!) but who gets the blame if it goes wrong?

· By the strictest letter of the law, this is legal

· Are the rights to the employee being prioritised?

· Employers could be responsible for adverse reactions

In a move that has caused a little uncertainty, Pimlico have announced that a new requirement, a Covid-19 vaccine, will take pride of place alongside the likes of “Clean driving license” for new staff – but can they really insist on new staff having a jab?

It is a legal question that may rumble on for a while, but the short answer is “yes”. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act [1974] “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” (or hers, apologies for the masculine tone of most legal instruments).

Should Covid-19 be perceived a risk to employees (and let’s face it, few will argue that) then employers are within their rights to make it a requirement to protect the staff body as a whole.

“What about human rights?” I hear you cry…well, it is true that the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) dictates that everyone has the right to Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (Article 9). It must be remembered that certain belief systems prohibit vaccinations or the use of needles.

However, the same Article of the ECHR states that “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as…the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Or, in short, when it comes to health and wellbeing, the needs of the many outweigh the rights of the one.

The area this whole debate becomes rather sticky in, is the repercussions if someone has a reaction, particularly an extreme one, to a vaccine. If vaccines were administered due to the insistence of an employer, the company could be held responsible for any harm it caused. This could cause issues with lawsuits against employers, and it is unclear at this time whether insurance policies currently in place would cover this kind of harm caused to an employee whilst technically in their employed capacity. To extend this further, directors of a company can be held personally responsible for any actions taken that damage a company, even going as far as criminal or civil action, so caution should be advised before any votes on whether to enforce a “No jab, no job” policy in a workplace.

Maybe a better way of tackling this situation would be to explain the benefits to the employee of having the jab, and why it will improve their working life, rather than trying to enforce it?

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