Can Employers Insist Staff Have The Jab?

The Manx Industrial Relations Service is an independent, gov funded organisation whose job is to promote good industrial relations on the Isle of Man, they have shared this article with us about your rights as an employee and how they may be impacted by the vaccine rollout.

Last week we received a number of queries about the Covid vaccine the most common asking if employers can insist that workers get vaccinated.

Employers should support staff in getting the Covid-19 vaccine, but they cannot force staff to be vaccinated.

We would advise employers to talk with their staff about the vaccine and share the benefits of being vaccinated.

If someone does not want to be vaccinated, the employer should listen to their concerns and be sensitive towards individual situations and keep any concerns confidential.

Some people may have health concerns such as allergies and some may be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2017 for example, if someone is pregnant. Staff should talk to their doctor if they’re concerned about their health and getting the vaccine.

What if the employer decides it is necessary to have the vaccine?

An employer may decide it’s necessary for staff to be vaccinated. This should only be the case if getting the vaccine is required for someone to do their job. For example, if staff travel to other countries for work and need vaccinations.

Employers cannot force staff to have the vaccine against their will but could, for example, consider a policy which requires staff to be vaccinated in order to attend the workplace, with the threat of disciplinary action for those who refuse to do so. However, such a policy could expose the employer to unfair dismissal claims if employees with at least one year of service are dismissed as a result of their refusal. It could also expose the employer to discrimination claims from those who refuse to be vaccinated due to religious or philosophical beliefs or because of health concerns related to an underlying disability.

Any vaccination policy should therefore be based on a risk assessment which considers the nature of the work and the risks of infection to colleagues and clients, and also takes account of any guidance from Public Health. Outside of the health and social care sectors, it would seem difficult to justify a policy of requiring staff to be vaccinated, but much will depend on future Government guidance on the issue.

If an employer decides it’s necessary, they should agree it with staff or the workplace’s recognised trade union. The agreement should be put in writing, for example in a workplace policy.

Disciplinary Action

If an employer believes someone’s reason for refusing the vaccine is unreasonable, in some situations it could result in a disciplinary procedure. This will depend on if it’s the workplace’s policy to be vaccinated and necessary for someone to do their job. If staff believe their employer is being unreasonable If an employee or worker believes their employer is being unreasonable in deciding it’s necessary for them to get the coronavirus vaccine, they should try and resolve the problem informally. They can do this by talking with their: employer health and safety representative, if they have one trade union representative, if they’re a member of a trade union If it cannot be resolved informally, staff can raise a problem formally. This is known as ‘raising a grievance’.

In contrast, employers will, in general, be justified in taking action against employees who spread misinformation or who intimidate or harass others due to their views on vaccination.

Employers must strike a careful balance between allowing staff to express their views (particularly where these are based on religious or philosophical beliefs), and the need to counteract misinformation and stamp out intimidating or harassing behaviour.

More information about the vaccine roll out programme on the Isle of Man is available here:-

https://covid19.gov.im/…/covid-19-vaccination-for-the…/

The Manx Industrial Relations Service can be contacted via on 672942, http://www.mirs.org.im or email iro@mirs.org.im.