No jab, no job?

40% of employers say that they would be willing to dismiss an employee who refused to have a coronavirus vaccine. Is this grounds for dismissal?

Survey results. Survey findings released in February 2021 revealed that four in ten employers would be willing to dismiss an employee who refused to have a coronavirus vaccine. If you give your staff an “it’s the jab or your job” ultimatum, would it amount to a safe dismissal?

Legal issues. This issue hasn’t been tested in either the tribunal or another court. However, an employer would likely be on dangerous ground if it dismissed an employee because they refused to have a coronavirusvaccine when it was offered to them (see The next step ). There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the UK does not require mandatory vaccination and the government says that it has no plans to make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory. An employee would not be breaching any legal or mandatory requirement by their refusal.

Personal choice. Having any type of vaccine is a personal choice. Some employees will be hesitant about the vaccine or may want more information about it and/or the possible long-term effects before consenting to it. Again, this is their right. Others may have personal reasons for refusing vaccines. This might be connected to religious requirements or deeply held beliefs or due to a medical condition, previous experiences with vaccines, phobias or plans to have a child. Some employees may simply wish to exercise their right of refusal.

Tip. You might be thinking that it would be OK to dismiss an employee with less than two years’ service if they refuse a coronavirusvaccine - after all, they won’t have accrued the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim. The risk here is that the employee may allege that your dismissal decision was a discriminatory one, e.g. due to their disability, sex or religion or belief, which is a day one right. So, our advice is not to use a refusal to have a coronavirus vaccine as grounds for dismissal.

For more information about the NHS vaccination programme, visit , Download Zone, year 23, issue 05.
A refusal isn’t grounds for dismissal. Apart from the fact that coronavirus vaccines aren’t mandatory, an employee may have justifiable reasons for their refusal, e.g. religious beliefs. So, it may end up being an act of discrimination.

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