Labour has warned that ‘no jab, no job’ contract requirements could leave workers exposed to discrimination following reports that UK businesses could make Covid vaccination for their staff mandatory.
Responding to the government minister in charge of vaccine deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, telling the BBC this morning that it is “up to business what they do”, Andy McDonald criticised the government response.
“In saying that it is up to businesses to decide, the government is abrogating its responsibility when it should be leading,” Labour’s Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary said this afternoon.
“‘No jab, no job’ requirements could leave workers exposed to unlawful discrimination and employers exposed to legal action. The government cannot leave it to businesses to decide and must give clear guidance and provide leadership.”
Law firms have told The Financial Times that many companies are considering requiring their employees to have a coronavirus vaccination once the jab is made available to all adult in the country.
Concerns have been raised that introducing a mandatory requirement to get a vaccine would discriminate against people who are unable to take the jab. Two companies have said they would not hire someone without a Covid vaccine.
Barchester Healthcare, which runs more than 200 care homes, said it would introduce the policy on non-medical grounds. Chief executive Pete Calveley argued that it is the company’s duty to protect its staff and residents.
Pimlico Plumbers chairman Charlie Mullins announced that the company will be introducing a ‘no vaccine jab, no job’ work requirement and said that his lawyers have already been drafting new contracts for employees.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take all reasonably steps to reduce workplace risks to their lowest practicable level. But lawyers disagree about whether asking staff to take the vaccine is a ‘reasonable instruction’.
The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, under which the health regulations to fight the Covid pandemic have been promulgated, states that a person cannot be required to undergo medical treatment, including vaccination.
The Prime Minister has so far told the public that the government wants to focus on mass vaccination and rapid testing, rather than making it a mandatory requirement for people to have a Covid jab in order to access jobs and services.
On whether the UK could introduce a domestic ‘vaccine passport’, Boris Johnson said in a Covid press conference that “we will look at everything” but added “what we are thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination”.